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Drama through the lens
12:02pm Saturday 21st July 2012 in Books
Landscape photographer Mark Denton has captured the stunning drama and wildness of the Yorkshire coast in a book of photographs. STEPHEN LEWIS reports
MARK Denton has always been drawn to the sea. He grew up just 500 yards from the North Sea – though admittedly it was at Seaburn, in Sunderland, rather than here in Yorkshire.
Nevertheless, as a little boy, there was nothing he loved more than running down to the beach to play. “Digging holes in search of Australia was one of my favourite pastimes; another was throwing stones into the sea,” he writes in the introduction to his stunning book of photographs of the Yorkshire Coast.
The 40-year-old landscape photographer’s love of the sea and the coast is obvious from the photographs on these pages, all taken from that book.
You might have thought you knew the Yorkshire coastline. Whether it is the sands of Bridlington bay, the grandeur of Flamborough head or the wild, rugged coast around Ravenscar and Whitby, we all have our favourite spots.
Mark has the true photographer’s eye, however. He notices things the rest of us probably don’t. He has lived in Yorkshire since he was 19: and clearly knows every inch of its coastline.
The result is 120 pages of stunning panoramic images that are unexpected and revelatory by turn. Whether it is the upright posts of decaying groynes marching into the sea at Spurn Point; an empty bench on a deserted Bridlington pier on a cold December morning; or a brooding, storm-wracked Filey Bay on a late February evening: these are all photographs to make you stop and look, again and then again.
It is the sheer variety and changeability of the Yorkshire coast that makes it such a photographer’s dream, he says. Not only does the coastline change continually as you go north or south: each part of the coast changes depending on the time of day or year, or on the weather.
He has captured some of that huge variety and subtlety in his photographs – photographs that are even more remarkable given that the married 40-year-old father of two didn’t really take up photography seriously until he was 28.
He taught himself using a book: and within a very short space found himself giving up his job as manager of Waterstones in Scarborough to open his own photography business.
The images in his book – a paperback reprint of a book originally published in hardback in 2006 – were taken over the couple of years leading up to 2006.
Mark then lived on the Yorkshire coast – first at Scarborough, then Hunmanby. That made a real difference, he says. “You always get your best pictures from near where you live.” It means you can respond to conditions, he says – as he did when he took his photo of storms sweeping in over Filey bay. It was a miserable afternoon in late February. He was living in Hunmanby at the time, not far from the bay. “So I just went out, on that winter’s afternoon, at about three or four pm, and got one shot. And I think it’s one of the best in the book.
Some of the photographs are accompanied by lovely little personal memories – such as one about going out to sea with his uncle in his uncle’s Flamborough coble, only to find someone had drilled holes in the bottom.
They were about three miles out when they realised, he writes. “It was one of those moments where a life at sea told him (Mark’s uncle) what to do. He showed no emotion as the deck boards began to ooze water and the boat slowly sank…Bravely he turned to the south and the far away lights of Bridlington Harbour. Closer and closer the coble bobbed in the waves, its bows sinking lower as we took on more water. He never doubted we would make it. As the coble limped into the harbour… it was slack water and the boat was beached on the mud. I have never been so thankful for the sight of Bridlington.”
The photographer and his family now live in lower Wensleydale – and Mark is working on a book of photographs of the Dales. We can’t wait.
The Yorkshire Coast by Mark Denton is published in paperback by Frances Lincoln on August 2, priced £9.99.