by Martin Middlebrook
For many photographers, confinement can only be viewed as this terrible, but necessary evil. We are most of us, programmed to pack a bag each day, throw it over our shoulders, and go in search. Worst still, for the working pro, the great majority except for a few press photographers, have seen our work grind to a horrifying halt.
Personally, I had spent the previous four months working on a project proposal for a European TV channel for an assignment in the middle east, and just an hour after we had finalised all the details over a conference call, the receiving countries closed their borders. On the 16th of March I was due to fly to the Dominican Republic for a late winter break, but they too closed their borders twelve hours before our flight, and the following day came the rumour that France would instigate confinement. Fortunately we’re confined in a house on a beach and nearly four weeks later, I am still here, and I have been shooting the Atlantic Ocean every day.
I began my fine art seascape project five years ago, when I purchased a home near the French coast. It was the antidote to photojournalism, and it’s always a relief to escape the poison of the city and shoot the sea for a few weeks a year. But never has it been enforced, never have I been unable to move away from ten square meters of sea front. And that has been a beautiful challenge - how do you constantly refresh the same horizon?
Well, of course I am helped by the ever changing weather and the light, the moon cycle and the tides, such that each day is new and fascinating in its own way, and some days are simply beyond any suitable description - there are not the right superlatives.
It’s also a hugely addictive process. As I unavoidably look out of the lounge window, the sea front and beach are only ten meters away, and this aperture allows endless enticing panoramas as clouds rifle across the sky creating a constantly moving patina on the surface of the sea, or the water changes from pink to green to blue as the sun rises or sets, or a rainbow suddenly appears on the horizon as an April shower sweeps in, and just as quickly departs - all of which means that my camera’s batteries are constantly emptying, I am burning hard disk space at an astonishing rate, and my two beloved Vanguard VEO 265CB tripods are receiving an absolute beating.
I chose Vanguard tripods because of the light carbon fibre construction and the size. It is my nature as a photographer to be constantly moving, I’m often working with two cameras at a time, and in most conditions they do absolutely everything I require of them. I love their efficiency and weight, their ease of use and flexibility. And never more so have I appreciated having them with me. They are permanently erected, sentinels to the sea, ready for a camera to be attached.
And I have learned that getting up before the dawn and being the only person watching the sun rise over the ocean is akin to a religious experience. And I have revelled in a blue sky with no aircraft contrails to ruin it (never happened in my life), which means that I eschew my normal way or working, heavy skies and slab grey vistas, and happily photograph a sun bleached afternoon, because all traces of humanity have been wiped clean from the canvas.
So, whilst for most, confinement and the ensuing tragedy of the past few weeks have come at a bitter cost, I have at least been fortunate to ameliorate the shut down of my business activities, by being privileged to sit on this ten square meters of beach, and photograph a world that seems to hark to another time, a time before man emptied the oceans and filled the skies. What luck.
Some examples of the photographs are below:
To view more of Vanguard Ambassador Martin Middlebrook’s work from his confinement in France, please visit: www.martinmiddlebrook.com/confinement