We, as a nation, are no strangers to lost communities. Cities enveloped by tornados, made into rubble by underground fires, coastlines and homes eaten alive by hurricanes. This may be why White’s “Lost Villages” series strikes such a cord.In his collection, the British photographer paints an austere and potent portrait of a coastline of small towns unloosed by fast decay and resigned to their inevitable disappearance. The setting for the series is the Holderness coastline, a peninsula of vulnerable cliffs in Yorkshire England.
White focuses not only on the landscape (doomed by quickly eroding soft clay) but also the towns that live along the coastlines. Indeed, the images are arresting: trailers perch like birds on a wire above the sea; a paved road ending in barriers at the edge of a cliff; fish and chip shops devoid of costumers – towns of daily life. As if on life support, it will breathe until it cannot.
“My work tends to be reflective and is often quiet and deeply personal. The relationship humans have with the natural world is of great interest to me and this is a common thread that runs through much of my work.” White was inspired by a variety of sources-artistic, historical and sentimental-temperaments, unsurprisingly evidenced in “Lost Villages.” In his photographs, one can see the hands of British landscape artists William Turner and Jon Constable and modern artists like David Hockney and photographers like Nadav Kander.
“My fascination with the natural world and contrasting environments is at the heart of my photography and an infinite source of inspiration. My work explores the relationship between nature and the modern world, and how they co-exist, sometimes harmoniously, more often in conflict with one another. I see this conflict as one of the key dilemmas of modern day existence.”
One of the reasons he was drawn to Holderness, possibly the most important reason, was because it was very close to where he grew up. As a child, White and his parents would take day trips to the area, in particular, a town called Withersea. “Returning to this stretch of coastline as an adult after so many years, [it] helped bring back fond memories of playing on the beach, my grandparents close by keeping an eye on me from their deck chairs.”
White was also fascinated by the history of the region and the lost villages of the past. In particular, a place called Ravenser Odd. Noted in the history books as a medieval “new town,” it was founded in 1235 and a thriving seaport by 1299. The sand banks of town, much like the modern villages of Holderness, began to recede and after a series of storms in the mid-1300s, nearly all of the inhabitants fled. Ravenser Odd was consumed by the sea. A lost village in a watery grave
White will continue to document the erosion of the Holderness peninsula and the effects that it has on the communities that still exist along the coastline. He is also working on a new landscape project in the Himalaya mountains called “When the wave come from the mountain.” The series will look at how the global climate change is affecting the glaciers in the region, creating lakes, some of which are very dangerous.
“The current situation and human challenges the world faces as a result of how much the climate has changed in the last hundred years is something I am very passionate about and care greatly about the well being of nature. This new work will have quite a focus on this and will be completed in the next few months.”