SUNSET ON SANTA MONICA PIER & WHY I LIKE BEING A STRANGER
On evening just before Christmas I set off for Santa Monica pier to jump with both feet into capturing whatever I saw - kind of a Dawn photography bath if you will. With an open brief to myself and the freedom of an unfamiliar location, I had one of the most fruitful days of the trip.
But it got me thinking, why did this feel so different to taking pictures at home. I live in Oxford, one of the most picturesque cities in the world, but yet here I was on a beach and the photos were all jumping out at me.
‘Oh hey Dawn, look at this colour, oh look at this scenario Dawn.. oh Dawn Dawn… me me me… take a picture of me! Look at my patterns!!! I’M LIKE A METAPHOR FOR LIFE’
(That's the pier and the beach talking… no honestly I’m fine).
So here are my ponderings - there is always a danger that you can become blind to the things you see everyday. If you’re in your own environment, you have to make a conscious decision to take a step back and try to see the world with fresh eyes - Almost as a traveler in your own land. Otherwise your brain can stop seeing the patterns, the buildings, the interactions between people, unless something breaks out of the norm and then into your focus.
Thats the luxury of photographing when you’re travelling. You don’t have to make as many of those leaps and you can feel freer just to explore and capture what you see.
There are other dangers that can appear though, you can then find yourself taking the same image as the thousands of the people before you, or simply falling into well trodden tropes.
So on Santa Monica Pier, my only brief to myself was to be free and open to whatever I found, but not to fall into any stereotypical images. Really I was hunting for photographs that had never been taken in a place where everyone is clutching their camera. I had an hour before the sun went down.
So here are the results. Theres a real mix, some abstract, some documentary (and yes, some of them feel a little close to having been seen before, but sometimes you just need to be honest with yourself and say that the fact that they represent the moment outweighs the fact that they might not be high art) and lastly, a series of images which I call ‘No One’s looking’.
When I arrived I got a little obsessed with these earthworks and barriers across the beach - graphic lines, rugged mountains and tracks of humans and machines.
And here are some documentary type jobies. These are not intended to be a comprehensive photo essay, just vignettes of moments which presented themselves.
So the sun really started to go down. The colours were incredible. Everyone reached for the cameras to try to capture/remember/prove that they saw this. I turned my camera to the beach, (yes the irony of me trying to make a comment about how we see the world through cameras was captured through my camera, Alanis Morissette would lose her mind). It seemed that no one was looking at the sunset, all were taking selfies, or majestic images of eachother pretending to look whimsical.
But then someone appeared. They were looking directly at the sunset, unaffected by the sea crashing against them and the swarms of people taking pictures. They were clutching a letter and seemed utterly content while having a powerful, real moment. While taking the pictures, I found this to be beautiful but also melancholy. I guess we all project what we feel the person is doing, whether it's talking to someone who's passed away, wishing for something or declaring something.
Things appear in unexpected places. With the sun almost set, the light played on the wall of the toilet reminding me of some art deco minimalist liner. Graphic, graphic, graphic.
And as the sun set almost completely, I walked away from the pier. In the darkness this man caught my eye. There was something about the deep blue sky and the colours of his shirt, the way that the lines of his shirt twisted and the fact he glowed with the last faited remains of the light. I snapped a series of images of him. I suppose this is an example of an image which just feels right, without trying to make a statement. I just love it and it's hard to say why.
Thanks for staying to the end of my rambles and pictures. Onwards, ever onwards my trusty photo steeds!
I took this picture, so it is not me running, but lets all pretend it is.