Suffolk photographer Sarah Lucy Brown says: ‘I want my photographs to act as a portal into a dream state’
- Credit: Archant
For many the Suffolk coastline, at this time of the year, can represent something of a raging tempest. But, for photographer Sarah Lucy Brown our coastal strip has always been a place of inspiration.
It exists somewhere between our world and an ethereal dreamscape. It’s a place of magic that occurs in those few minutes just before dawn – just before the sun breaks the horizon.
Sarah has put together an exhibition of her favourite coastal pictures which will form the inaugural exhibition at Ephemeral, a new gallery in Saxmundham.
“I have been fascinated with the sea and its relationship with us and our changing coastline all my life. It seems almost to be alive.”
Sarah, a member of the Archant photographic team, says planning a trip of the seaside means days of planning, watching weather reports and getting up in the pitch black before driving to her favourite spots at Felixstowe Ferry, Thorpeness or Southwold.
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“The bit I love to photograph is right before the sun comes up. It’s a magical time. Something extraordinary happens. It only lasts for about 20 minutes. In the whole exhibition I think I have only two sunsets, everything else was shot at dawn. That’s the point of time that I am most interested in. When the sun is up I go home.”
The sky, the cloud cover, the early light is very much in the lap of the gods. Sometimes the pre-dawn light is spectacular, the horizon is ablaze, filled with dramatic reds and oranges, other days are flat and grey and Sarah’s 4am alarm call would have been for nothing.
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“It’s really difficult getting up in the middle of the night but when I’m there I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You see things which only happen at that time of day. The light and the colours in the sky are totally different. You don’t get that same ethereal feel even at sunset.”
This is Sarah’s first solo exhibition and she is thrilled that the exhibition will be a mix of pictures she has been shooting for the last five years and new pictures which she will continue taking right up to the private view.
“I am calling the show Liminal Space which is a threshold between states – a place of transition. It’s a dream-like space. For me, the coast first thing in the morning has been a very special place. It’s incredible, a time when you can get really powerful pictures.
“For those 20 minutes it is a dreamlike world and I love that you can see the sky changing. You arrive in the dark and before your eyes an incredible scene of colour develops before your eyes. It’s just out of this world.
“Also there are no people in my pictures. This is deliberate. I want the viewer to step into this dreamlike landscape. You are the only person there.”
Sarah is all ready mentally curating a follow-up exhibition devoted to her travel photography. For more than ten years she has been taking extended trips to the Far East and South America, getting away from the tourist trail and photographing village life with the local population. Again many of these locations can be found close to the sea.
“I live with the villagers, for the first couple of days I don’t do much I just let them get used to me being around with my camera. I don’t want to be intrusive. I want to try and blend into the background as much as possible, which is why you have to be there for an extended period of time.
“Once they have stopped seeing you as something out of the ordinary you can then start taking pictures of village life.”
She said she likes taking pictures of market day, people at work and family life. Pictures which capture people interacting with one another.
There will be a small element of Sarah’s travel photography in the Liminal Space show as she will be projecting a series of images of clouds taken from the window of a plane.
“I have always been obsessed with clouds and to get them into my work is great. When I am flying, I always take pictures of the clouds from above – again it creates this feeling of liminal space. We are used to seeing the clouds above us and it creates a different feeling to look down upon them.”
Although this is Sarah’s first solo exhibition, she has been part of a 24-year, group photographic project, with her university course mates to record each hour of the New Year.
“I have been contributing to 24, our university group project, for the last 12 years. We are now at the half-way point. We wanted to record the first 24 hours of a new year. We were each allotted a time on New Year’s Day and each year we move on by one hour. At the end of the project each photographer has got 24 pictures charting 24 hours over 24 years.
“Each year we stage an exhibition of our work in London. I started at 11pm, so I have gone through the night which in a way has inspired me to do this show. I have a taste for working when there’s no-one else around, when the light is soft and beautiful. Also New Year is a significant liminal space.
She said that the focus of the exhibition will be a portrait of her partner Craig pictured sound asleep. The image is lit by a string of small lights draped around the bed. Sarah said: “The exhibition will feature the ‘dreamer’ as its central theme – with the seascapes representing a feeling of transition from sleeping to waking.
“I am not a painter but many of the pictures have that painterly, dream-like quality. I try and incorporate layers and different natural colours into the pictures. This is the closest I have got to painting. I don’t use filters or lots of darkroom trickery. What you see in these pictures is what I see.”
Sarah said that the sea has been a constant in her work throughout her career. “It goes back to when I was studying at Central St Martins in London. I used the sea a lot in my work there,” she pauses, memories flickering across her face. “In fact it goes back before that because when I did my A-levels I did my personal statement on the work of Turner and Constable. When I moved here from Cambridge, Constable Country really did come alive to me.
“I have always been interested in the sea but I never lived near it until I came to Suffolk and now it is on my doorstep. For many years my interest was unconscious. I just found myself photographing seascapes and scenes and when I look back at my old work, these are the images that I have kept.”
Sarah said that the work in the new show has been specifically produced for this exhibition and she has created 15 prints which will be available in limited editions of three.
“I want the pictures to be a portal into a dream state, so it will be great to see the pictures up on the walls. I want the visitor to look at the pictures and feel as if they can walk into the shot.”
Sarah Lucy Brown’s exhibition Liminal Space will be the opening exhibition at the Ephemeral Gallery in High Street, Saxmundham, from March 20-27.