Exploring the Overlooked: Impressions of the Maltese Shoreline
Here are a few images from a project now drawing to a close. These black and white photographs document the overlooked and mundane on the Maltese shoreline. These aren’t grand constructs that demand our attention. Instead, they are subtle, seemingly innocuous alterations where the land meets the water.
Living on an island measuring 27 kilometres in length and, at its widest point, 15 kilometres, with a shoreline of just 137 kilometres long, the idea of capturing grand vistas in the traditional landscape genre seemed inappropriate. Why? Well, the simple answer is that size does matter.
Let me elaborate on my mindset as I embarked on creating this image set.
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
Through their colour and monochrome imagery of American suburbia and edgelands, master photographers like William Eggleston and Robert Adams have artfully demonstrated the beauty of the mundane. Their photographs are captivating, inviting us to pause, reflect, and explore the subtleties of the everyday. It’s not just in what we see; it’s how we see it.
When it comes to measuring a coastline, there is no fixed value; it’s a fluid concept that depends on the scale of measurement. This challenges our conventional understanding of size. As we zoom in, revealing intricate topographic details while employing progressively smaller units of measurement, the coastline’s length seemingly expands exponentially.
Now, let’s transition these thoughts to photography.
When I think of landscape photography, Ansel Adams immediately springs to mind. His iconic black and white photographs captured the grandeur and beauty of the American West, particularly Yosemite. For many, including myself, he is emblematic of the grand vista landscape genre.
However, the shoreline I set out to photograph is, well, let’s call it modest in length. While there are opportunities for creating a limited number of panoramic images, the concept of scale consumed my thoughts. Focusing on a smaller scale, I found myself drawn into a realm of the often-overlooked.
When setting out to take landscape images, it’s all too easy to get caught up in chasing the grand, the breathtaking, and the spectacular. It’s almost as if the camera demands we capture views that leave us in awe. However, what if we take a different route, one that leads us to find hidden charms in the seemingly trivial? This is how I set about capturing the curvatures of bathing ladders, the repetitive pattern of keel blocks, and the utilitarian forms of concrete piers.
Walking Boots and a Nikon F5
As I continue my walking route, with a few more kilometres left to complete, no doubt I’ll stumble upon yet more details to photograph. I intentionally sought overcast skies and a restless sea as companions along these walks. The combination of soft light and a rough sea enabled me to extend the exposure times, which ran into minutes. This approach achieved an almost ethereal picture style, with the inherent film grain adding further texture to the final images.
As I come to the end of my seaside walks, I can’t help but reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and appreciate the understated beauty that lies in the details. The paradox of scale became evident as I captured even the smallest human interventions on the shoreline. It wasn’t just about capturing beautiful imagery but more about finding the sublime in the subtle.
I intend to cull the photographs down to a twenty-image set, which will no doubt end up in a gallery at some stage on this site, and I hope you enjoy the selection of images that feature in this post. Please feel free to get in touch with any comments, as I enjoy responding to the emails I have received from other posts.