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Saltmarsh - Photographer Rachel Spender talks about her exhibition of black and white photographs.

Updated: May 12, 2022

Essex Saltmarsh from the Air

I grew up looking towards the glinting east coast rivers, and longing to be on them I wandered the marshes with my sketchbooks, collecting shells, enjoying beaches, sailing creeks in old wooden workboats. We walked, we swam, and we sailed and then one day I flew over the marshes, and airborne at last, it was as if at once my eyes were opened forever

to seeing this land and seascape in a

new three-dimensional way.

I’d been Invited to visit Western Greenland with the landscape painter Keith Grant, to witness the glaciated landscape with its majestic titanic breaking bergs - we went out amongst them in a small boat with an Inuit guide and we sketched and photographed them. A trip to Antarctica to sail across the vast and heaving sea trailed by Albatross, and there again to experience the other worldliness of an atmosphere and light on a monumental landscape, so alien and unwelcoming, and yet spell binding.

Returning to East Anglian shores, an invitation to fly revealed to me the sheer magic of our own watery landscape, no less visually awe inspiring. Where sea and rivers meet and over the centuries organic forms have materialised from shell matter and tides have deposited their debris. The feeding grounds for migratory birds. It seems to me no less a visually awe-inspiring place. with its organic forms. and its elemental nature.

We may have taken this delicate fragile ephemeral and ever shifting and evolving land and seascape granted and yet we must cherish it as if it were our life blood. This landscape may already not exist anymore, I made these photographs over ten years ago. Perhaps the sea has risen and some of it taken away, perhaps new drainage pipes have been dug and new irrigation systems...dredged and redeposited dugout mud...sea wall defences been worked on...

Nowadays we could see it all on google earth or by drone. But to experience it from the air and physically see it for yourself is what makes you feel at one with this - our amazing landscape.

Rachel Spender


Saltmarsh Exhibition continues at the Mill Tye Gallery until Sunday 29th May 2022. See available gallery commissioned prints BUY PRINTS

Watch... 'In Depth with the artist – Rachel Spender: Essex Saltmarsh from the Air'

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Firstsite commissioned this film and the project received

support from the Firstsite Collectors.

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