"Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…"
This summer could have easily given visitors to our shores a false sense of optimism of what a British summer really looks like. Fortunately, Simon Roberts has captured the real essence of seaside resorts with his collection of photographs of piers from across the UK. Showcasing the best and worst that British seaside towns have to offer, Pierdom highlights that despite being able to build structures that stretch out from land to sea, asserting man’s dominance over nature, if the structure loses its relevance, nature will always take it back.
Part photography exhibition, part sociological record, Roberts' visits to and photographs of the remaining Victorian-built piers over the course of three years has resulted in a collection that has also been published in his book by the same title. At Flowers Gallery, 18 of these pieces are being exhibited – a good choice of gallery space, as the large white walls, floods of natural light and polished concrete floor allow Roberts' huge prints to be fully appreciated.
Pierdom captures the stillness and quietness of these forgotten Victorian times, illustrating the social and economic decline of places that have also been forgotten. However, there is also an element of play when viewing Roberts' photographs of places in which social activity has not completely disappeared. The large scale of the photographs, taken from elevated vantage points, allows you to dispense with the 20p to use the rusty blue binoculars and lets you delve straight into that specific moment in time for a game of "Where's Wally?" You are guaranteed to spot something different each time in these works, picking out different people and little details each time you go back to look at them.
Other pieces that focus on the pier as an object to admire in its own right warrant a more serious approach to viewing. The composition of Roberts' images use the piers' geometric and repetitive forms, combined with their size and pale tone give his photos a haunting realism and sense of perspective.
Pierdom is on display at Flowers Gallery until the 12th of October. The gallery is just a stone's throw from Hoxton overground station, so if you have an hour to spare it will be worth a visit.