Early bird . . . Suffolk photographer Sarah Lucy Brown
PUBLISHED: 11:44 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 11:44 24 February 2015
Suffolk photographer Sarah Lucy Brown will help launch a new gallery in Saxmundham with her inaugural solo exhibition. She speaks to Andrew Clarke about her inspiration – the county’s coast
For many, the Suffolk coastline at this time of the year can represent something of a raging tempest. But, for photographer Sarah Lucy Brown our coastal strip has always been a place of inspiration.
It exists somewhere between our world and an ethereal dreamscape. It’s a place of magic that occurs in those few minutes just before dawn – just before the sun breaks the horizon.
Sarah has put together an exhibition of her favourite coastal pictures which will form the inaugural exhibition at Ephemeral, a new gallery in Saxmundham.
“I have been fascinated with the sea and its relationship with us and our changing coastline all my life. It seems almost to be alive.”
Sarah says that organising a trip to the seaside means days of planning, watching weather reports and getting up in pitch black before driving to her favourite spots at Felixstowe Ferry, Thorpeness or Southwold.
“The bit I love to photograph is right before the sun comes up. It’s a magical time – something extraordinary happens. It only lasts for about 20 minutes. In the whole exhibition I think I have only two sunsets, everything else was shot at dawn. That’s the point of time that I am most interested in. When the sun’s up I go home.”
The sky, the cloud cover, the early light is very much in the lap of the gods. Sometimes the pre-dawn light is spectacular, the horizon is ablaze, filled with dramatic reds and oranges. Other days are flat and grey and Sarah’s 4am early morning alarm call will be for nothing.
“It’s really difficult getting up in the middle of the night, but when I’m there I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You see things which only happen at that time of day. The light and the colours in the sky are totally different. You don’t get that same ethereal feel even at sunset.”
This is Sarah’s first solo exhibition. It will be a mix of pictures she has been shooting for the last five years and new pictures that she will continue taking right up to the private view.
The show is called Liminal Space – a threshold between states, a place of transition.
“For me, the coast first thing in the morning has been a very special place. It’s incredible, a time when you can get really powerful pictures.
“For those 20 minutes, it’s a dreamlike world and I love that you can see the sky>>
>> changing. You arrive in the dark and an incredible scene of colour develops before your eyes. It’s just out of this world. I’m not a painter, but this is the closest I have got to painting. I don’t use filters or lots of darkroom trickery – what you see in these pictures is what I see.
“Also there are no people in my pictures. This is deliberate. I want the viewer to step into this dreamlike landscape – you are the only person there.”
Sarah is already mentally curating a follow-up exhibition devoted to her travel photography. For more than 10 years she has been going to the Far East and South America, getting away from the tourist
trail and photographing village life with the local population. Many of these locations are close to the sea.
“I live with the villagers. For the first couple of days I don’t do much – I just let them get used to me being around with my camera. I don’t want to be intrusive. I want to try and blend into the background as much as possible, which is why you have to be there for an extended period of time.
“Once they have stopped seeing you as something out of the ordinary you can start taking pictures of village life.”
Sarah likes taking pictures of market day, people at work and family life, pictures that capture people interacting with one another.
There will be a small element of Sarah’s travel photography in the Liminal Space show, a series of images of clouds taken from the window of a plane, projected on the ceiling.
“I have always been obsessed with clouds and to get them into my work is great. When I’m flying, I always take pictures of the clouds from above – again it creates this feeling of liminal space. We’re used to seeing clouds above us and it creates a different feeling to look down upon them.”
Sarah Lucy Brown’s exhibition Liminal Space is at the Ephemeral Gallery in High Street, Saxmundham, March 20-27