The beach is a great place for being observed – and for being a voyeur. This was taken at Kingsgate Bay, Kent, in June 2006. I’d been researching family photos and was interested in how the shoreline acts as a border between land, which represents culture and order; and sea, which is nature and chaos.
It’s from a series called Front, meaning the seafront, but also because they are all fake family photos. I would approach groups who’d made encampments on the beach and ask if I could become part of their family temporarily. I’d take over the role of a woman within that group, usually the mother, wearing an item of her clothing as a talisman. She would then photograph us under my instruction, while I, a stranger, nestled in with her loved ones.
When I saw this family, I knew there was the potential for a beautiful photograph: the beach behind them was empty, they were positioned well (I don’t like to arrange people at all), and they didn’t have too much picnic detritus. It takes a lot of bottle to ask strangers to do something like this, but they got it quickly and had an openness to art that was about more than the beret and paintbrush. Once they said yes, I set up, which took half an hour. I had to entertain them to keep their attention, and the mood became quite hyper. But it was fun: it had to be fun or why would I do it?
I swapped places with the woman, put on her ring, and she pressed the button. I had to get up to reset the camera between frames, so I only got two shots – that’s highly risky. But this picture was one of those moments you can’t plan. All of the elements came together: the light was just right, the family were beautiful and really into being involved. Then when I printed the photograph, I realised there was a perfect wave behind my head.
I really enjoyed looking through Trish Morrisseys body of work Front as I found it incredibly interesting that she could go up to these random families she saw on the street, beach, where ever she was and ask to photograph them but not only that but to get in the shot as if she was part of the family and take a family portrait of them with her in it and with some sort of item of clothing or jewellery from them.
Although my project isn’t exactly the same as this I feel a small connection here as I am still asking groups of people if I can photograph them. I usually know at least one of the people in the groups who I have photographed so it not as daunting going up to a stranger but I like the fact that mine are known people to myself because I like that during the project I have taught some of my friends how to work with a film camera or a digital one. What it takes to set up a shoot etc which I’m sure Trish Morrisseys also went through the process off whilst doing this Front project.