Seaside suburb inspires worldwide photo collaboration

  • Published

Our relationship with the sea, the effects of climate change, and the pandemic are some of the themes that have been explored by pairs of photographers working thousands of miles apart.

Professional and amateur photographers in the seaside suburb of Portobello, Edinburgh, connected with photographers around the world to produce images based on shared themes, for a seafront exhibition.

Here is a selection of some of the pairs' photographs, and their comments on their work.

Theme: There's Always the Sea

Image source, Malka Spigel-Newman

Freezing Time - Malka Spigel-Newman (Brighton, England)

"One of the many reasons that I love living in Brighton, by the sea, is that I share the city with seagulls.

"These beautiful, intelligent birds look amazing in flight.

"The photo I took is a moment I have frozen many times before; a seagull is just about to take off stretching their wings and heading upwards yet still with their feet just touching the surface they are soon to leave.

"This photo was taken on Brighton pier as the sun was going down."

Image source, Ian Hartley

Winding Down Flying High - Ian Hartley (Portobello, Edinburgh)

"At the end of the day, when our workplace is a distant and hazy silhouette, the sand and the sea provide a place to relax and reflect.

"A vast open place to be alone or with friends, surrounded by the breeze and the natural energy of the sea.

"To unwind and restore wellbeing - to feel airborne from the pressures of our hectic lives.

"There are around 100 people in this image, each having their own experience and reason to have visited - I wonder who they are and why they came here today?"

​Theme: Staying Afloat

Image source, Jemma Ridley

Seemingly Beautiful - Jemma Ridley (London)

"During the pandemic, many people flocked to the seemingly beautiful water on the River Lea at Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes, east London.

"The area is a habitat for wildlife and provided a lifeline for Londoners, who rediscovered nature throughout lockdown.

"However, the riverbanks are plagued by pollution - in summer 2021, people could be seen swimming during the July heatwave with little or no understanding of the health risks.

"As climate change affects global weather systems, cities like London are experiencing hotter and drier summers that are further impacted by urban heat.

"Access to nature is essential for good mental health, but pollution and climate change are having a huge impact on how we interact with and abuse the natural world."

Image source, Susanna Kinghorn

Misty Morning Paddle Boarders - Susanna Kinghorn (Portobello, Edinburgh)

"On 4 July 2021, in just one hour, around half of July's rainfall fell over Edinburgh.

"Streets were flooded, properties were damaged and people caught outside waded through the deluge to get home.

"By mid-July people enjoyed the heat as temperatures soared, causing some reservoirs to dry up.

"Water scarcity and flash flooding are some of the consequences of climate change in Scotland and globally."

Theme: Elemental

Image source, Alison Baillie

The Glacier at Rosenlaui - Alison Baillie (Rosenlaui, Switzerland)

"Switzerland is a country full of scenery with a special atmosphere, often with water as a powerful elemental force.

"For this project I went to one of my favourite locations, Rosenlaui in the Bernese Alps, a place that has inspired me and given me comfort over the years.

"This photo is of the majestic Rosenlaui Glacier, glistening in the sunlight between jagged peaks, taken from beside the milky glacial waters of the Rychenbach.

"Pre-Raphaelite artists were fascinated by Rosenlaui, and there are several paintings of the glacier by well-known painters.

"In these pieces of art, it is very noticeable that the glacier was twice the size that it is now - very telling evidence of the devastating effect of global warming, and a reminder that we must all do everything we can to preserve water as an essential element of our environment."

Image source, Joanne Baird

At the End of the Day - Joanne Baird (Portobello, Edinburgh)

"Portobello beach can often be very busy during the day, but as the sun goes down it grows quieter and more tranquil.

"It's a peaceful time to walk along the promenade.

"The water reflects the muted colours of the sunset sky in this photo, and a paddle boarder enjoys the calm waters.

"A bird flies effortlessly over the sea.

"Over the past year, more people have found affinity with the sea and there have been more swimmers, more paddle boarders, and more people in boats.

"People seem drawn to water and its deep elemental connection.

"I particularly like this image as it includes earth, sea and sky, which ties in well with our elemental theme."

Theme: Our Relationship with the Sea

Image source, Krista Paasi

Boy and his Horse Under Indonesian Sun - Krista Paasi (Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia)

"I spent two months in Indonesia last winter with my family due to my husband's work.

"Because of Covid, times are extremely hard in this part of the word, and we wanted to support the horses and their carers by taking our daughter for a horse ride.

"During sunset hours on this particular beach, horses often come for a sunset dip, and I took my chance to capture this majestic animal with his best friend. "

Image source, Anna Moffat

Swimmers in the Mist - Anna Moffat (Portobello, Edinburgh)

"My alarm was set for a sunrise swim on this cold November morning in 2020, but instead of a sky of fire, we were met by a thick blinding mist.

"The horizon was barely visible and as we entered the water the cold shock of the sea was biting, but particularly thrilling.

"In an uncertain and sometimes terrifying world, my connection with the sea and these wonderful women grounds me.

"We walk into the unknown and emerge a little stronger."

Theme: Our Warming World

Image source, Dave Bradley

The Land Is Too Hot​ - Dave Bradley (Carneys Creek, Queensland, Australia)

"As an Irishman in Australia, the smell of wood smoke in the air always evokes a mixture of homely comfort and primal fear.

"To see smoke clouds over the hills makes my heart leap into my mouth and hope it is a controlled burn.

"The landscape still bears the scars of last year's bushfires, which destroyed so much of the natural world.

"As each record-breaking temperature season passes, there is no doubt that one day the smoke I will see will not be under control."

Image source, Tommy Black

The Sea Is Too Hot - Tommy Black (Portobello, Edinburgh)

"As the world warms, the effects are felt differently in each place.

"Globally, June 2021 was the fifth warmest June on record.

"It saw the community of Portobello and our visitors spend the days sunbathing, swimming, paddling and hosting volleyball tournaments - evenings promenading with ice cream.

"But as the sea warms it expands and rises.

"Will the beach always be here?

"But the future isn't written yet. Can we turn this around - if not, can we adapt?"

Theme: The Rising Tide

Image source, Stuart Gilmour

At Sea Level - Stuart Gilmour (Kinghorn, Fife, Scotland)

"Since I moved to Kinghorn seven years ago, the village has become my muse, as I felt a strong connection with the place.

"Its diversity from the sea to the countryside has been a constant inspiration.

"Recently, I have started to explore my local territory under sea level - I call them underwater landscapes.

"Always a passionate photographer, I use this mode of expression as a companion to my painting.

"I see this as a new direction in my quest to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world we all inhabit."

Image source, Jon Davey

Splash - Jon Davey (Portobello, Edinburgh)

"With my photographic partner, Stuart, just across the Firth of Forth in Kinghorn, it seemed natural for us to choose a theme related to the sea.

"Ours is a nod to the long-term impact of global warming on sea levels, as well as the more mundane twice daily influx of water.

"I saw that Stuart had been working on underwater images, taken just below the water surface, so I decided I would look for an image just above the surface.

"With lots of variations to choose from, I picked one that seemed to best complement Stuart's image - the air bubbles in his picture echoed in the droplets of water in mine.

"The almost abstract nature of the images encourages reflection on the theme of 'The Rising Tide' and leads me to wonder how rising sea levels will affect both Portobello and Kinghorn in the coming years and decades."

Porty Connects: Portobello and the World is on display at the promenade in Portobello, Edinburgh, until 30 September 2021.

Related Topics