My residency focussed on Guernsey’s harbours – St Peter Port and St Sampson’s – which I explored with large format landscape photographs, a series of portraits, and a 3-screen video work. The exhibition, held in the Guernsey Museum at Candie, ran from 30th June – 28th August 2023 and was produced on fully recyclable materials.
Since 2012 the programme has welcomed Martin Parr (UK), Klavdij Sluban (Slovenia), Michelle Sank (South Africa), Jason Wilde (UK), Mark Power (UK), Gregoire Eloy (France), Sian Davey (UK) and Cristina De Middel (Spain/ Mexico).
Introduction by Jean-Christophe Godet, Director, Guernsey Photography Festival:
“Guernsey’s harbours – St Peter Port and St Sampson – have long played a crucial role in the history of the island. The former was used since ancient times by the Romans, the Vikings and the Normans, but both ports became important strategic locations during World War II. The sites have continued evolving over the centuries and become vital for the island’s trade and commerce. Fuel tankers now discharge alongside berths where quarrymen once loaded stone onto sailing ships. Over a hundred years ago, majestic ‘three masters’ docked for passengers relieved to walk ashore after a long and perilous journey. Now travellers drive off the fast ferries while cruise ships disembark their passengers keen to photograph the picturesque seafront and its layers of multicoloured facades. The harbours have been the island’s lifeline and remain so to this day.
A harbour is an intense hub of controlled activity. Behind all those restricted access signs, often hidden from general view, nearly eighty dedicated men and women work. They are responsible for coordinating, through strict rules and regulations, the safe flow of goods, services and people. It is an impressive, meticulously planned choreography that is being executed every day of the year.
We might consider these ports as the pulses that sound out the rhythm of the community. They are primarily industrious work sites but also become backdrops for celebrations and social gatherings. They remain great sources of inspiration to inhabitants and tourists alike, with changes of appearances according to the hour of the day, weather conditions and tidal coefficients. Islanders have an affectionate, even passionate, attachment to them and debate about their future development is often heated.
Simon Roberts, one of the UK’s most celebrated photographers, has explored ideas of territory and identity throughout his career. Landscape for Roberts, ‘is a contested, ambiguous space, shaped not only by material and environmental factors, but by fantasy, politics, economics and history.’ His large-format tableaux photographs are filled with intricate details, which require precise technical skills and are characterised by a complex multi-plane composition and elevated perspective. In his scenes, people seem to emerge gradually from the landscape revealing their places and interaction with their wider environment.
This means that his photographs require the viewer’s attention and time. They are an invitation – to question who we are and what defines us, to re-assess and re-imagine our place in the scheme of things and to contemplate how our communities and society are organised and understood. Guernsey’s harbours symbolise the gradual but constant tides of cultural and physical alteration that occurs over time and offer us a unique perspective of what we value and who we are.”