A year ago, as a travel photographer grounded by the pandemic, I started bringing a camera and tripod with me on my morning bicycle rides, shooting them as though they were magazine assignments. It started out as just something to do — a challenge to try to see the familiar through fresh eyes.
Soon it blossomed into a celebration of traveling at home. I live in a faded seaside town called St. Leonards-on-Sea, in Sussex, on the south coast of England. If you’ve not heard of it, you’re in good company. It’s not on anybody’s list of celebrated English beauty spots. Indeed, most of my riding is across flat coastal marsh or down-at-theheel seafront promenades.
There’s history here, of course. This is England after all. The lonely marshes I pedal across most days are where William the Conqueror landed his men in 1066. Otherwise, except for being a haunt for smugglers, this stretch of coast dozed away the centuries until the Victorians brought the railways down from London.
Then, for a few gaudy decades, St. Leonards and the other nearby seaside towns became popular bucket-and-spade holiday spots, England’s own Costa del Sol — that is, until budget airfares and the real Costa del Sol, the one in Spain, lured the crowds away and plunged the area into a long and not-so-genteel decline. As for me, I’m a transplant.
I moved here from Australia. After the initial novelty wore off, that of being in England, it assumed a sort of shrugging familiarity — the usual shops, takeaways, a downbeat seafront, rough around the edges but with not-too-inconvenient access to Gatwick and Heathrow and flights to more interesting places. But a year of exploring St. Leonards and its surrounds, camera in hand, chasing the light, has changed all that. It’s brought home the truth that you don’t need to board a plane and jet off to the far side of the world to experience a sense of travel or the romance of difference.
It lies waiting on your doorstep — if you look. You don’t need to go far. Indeed, I haven’t been able to. With the various lockdowns that have been imposed on us over the past year, it’s been either discouraged or downright illegal to stray far from your residence. All these images were captured within a 10-mile radius of where I live, and most of them much closer than that.