A few weeks ago my young man and I travelled to Dungeness, Kent for the day. He took his Canon 450D and I had a few exposures left in my 1937 Leica IIIa so grabbed that on the way out of the door. After the mixed success of my first roll of film, I held low expectations of the second roll so I wasn’t too precious. Having not yet got around to having a go at developing film myself (especially colour film!), I sent my second roll off to be developed by people who know what they’re doing! I was pleasantly surprised when I got the photographs back in the post…
I just love the colours I get with this camera and film; they’re so other worldly. Photographers amateur or professional who, like me, missed the era of film might spend hours editing a digital image to get this quality of colour! It was the perfect camera for me to take along that day.
Dungeness is a fascinating place. Famous for being the home of two nuclear power stations, it is often understandably dismissed as a place to avoid. If I’m honest I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about the visit, having been promised a seaside weekend in Broadstairs! But the place is unique and I’m very glad we went there. So different to England as we know it, it feels like the end of the earth.
The vast, yellow shingle ground is populated by a sporadic collection of timber shacks. The grander of these are cosy looking cottage homes, whilst others are dilapidated fisherman’s huts.
Nearer the coast, there are numerous fishing boats scattered around, casually abandoned and left to the mercy of the elements.
Film director, writer and artist, Derek Jarman, moved to Prospect Cottage, Dungeness in the late 1980s after he was diagnosed with HIV. He was drawn to its desolate character and had already used it as the setting for his 1987 film “The Last of England“, a parable on the social and sexual inequalities in England under Thatcherism.
Gazing across the wild landscape, one would have thought the idea of exercising any control over nature here would be laughable. However, Jarman famously managed to create an experimental garden to the rear of his house using local, readily available materials such as drift wood, twisted metal, broken garden tools and old fishing tackle as garden sculptures and plant supports.
Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne’s poem “The Sun Rising”.
During the Second World War Dungeness was one of the bases for Operation “PLUTO” (Pipeline Under The Ocean), supplying fuel to the Normandy Beaches and on into Europe immediately after the D-Day Landings. To minimise the risk of attacks on south coast pumping stations and to preserve the secrecy of the operation, these were carefully disguised as homes and other innocent looking buildings. The Church in Dungeness only became a place of worship after WWII had been won, having originally been built as a pumping station!
There are many layers in the history of this place which make it peculiar, but coupled with the unique geographical environment it becomes a very remarkable place. Artists, architects, writers and poets have all searched for inspiration here. There’s no doubt it has a strong sense of place; a distinct identity.
Captured on Kodak Portra Film | Order Prints Here