Posts Tagged ‘Promenade’

Documentary photography

In Arcades, photography, Promenades on April 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I have been alerted to these two photographers by the sound artist, Reid Dudley-Peirson, who, coincidentally is performing in a new piece called ‘Songs of the sublime’ at the Turner Contemporary gallery in the seaside town of Margate this weekend.

Reid informed me, after reading an early draft of some of our work, that we should supplement our analysis of seaside photography and the Arcades Project with considerations of the work of Eugene Atget and Martin Parr. This may take some time for us to process, but we offer up a couple of images here.

Atget was a contemporary of Walter Benjamin, taking photographs of Paris streets that influenced the surrealists and Dada at the time that Benjamin was working on his study of the Parisian Arcades. Martin Parr is a British documentary photographer, whose study of the seaside ‘The Last Resort’, clearly sheds light on our work on the links between tourism and the everyday within the capitalist constraints of the promenades.

Eugene Atget: avenue des gobelins (1927)

In his ‘little history of photography’, Benjamin makes the case for photography, still in the early stages of its development, to be “moving out of the realm of aesthetic distinctions to social function”. Leslie [2000] locates this movement in the dialectic, claiming that there is always an excess in photography, a residue of the social. In this sense, photography can provide research material, historical evidence that goes far beyond merely that which is represented on the surface of a photographic image.

Leslie goes on to identify three ways in which Benjamin conceptualised photography:

Firstly, as analogical representations of an external reality. Photographs provide a way of capturing natural perception and thus, of making the subjective objective.

Secondly, “the photograph fixes on celluloid a view of reality, held in the consciousness of a class when it imagines itself and the cosmos. Technological art is capable of tendering in ocular form the ideology of the self-representing class” [Leslie 2000: 49]. Benjamin refers to this as ‘optical-unconscious’, a relationship between the unconsciousness of the subject and the a-conscious machine perception of the lens

Finally, photography disrupts the ‘natural’ flow of images and perception and allows for reconfigurations of space and time, new constellations of knowledge.

“Photography…was first adopted within the dominant social class…:manufacturers, factory owners and bankers, statesmen, men of letters and scientists” Gisela Freund, “La Photographie au point de vue sociologique” (manuscript, p.32). Is this accurate? Shouldn’t the sequence be reversed? (Benjamin, AP, Y3, 1)

Images of the liminal

In Arcades, Promenades on July 1, 2010 at 5:08 pm

This is a slideshare version of our paper from the Liminal Landscapes conference, given today in Liverpool.

“Out of nothing in the middle of nowhere.”: a Schizocartography of Hunstanton

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2010 at 9:22 am

Part 1 – Walking the Promenade

A trip to ‘Sunny Hunny’

By Tina Richardson

Late morning on Wednesday June 2nd 2010 I set off from Northgate in Hunstanton (named after the local red Carr Stone – ‘honeystone’), Norfolk to explore the promenade. However, unlike John Betjeman I was unable to take the train from King’s Lynn railway station directly to Hunstanton (Hunst’on, as it is to the ‘locals’), as the line was closed in 1969:

King’s Lynn to Hunstanton

Map of Norfolk

The title of this blog – “Out of nothing in the middle of nowhere.” – refers to the phrase that is often used to describe Hunstanton’s origins: it sprung from a rural landscape and was developed for the sole purpose of turning it into a seaside resort. Schizocartography refers to the methods I use to highlight dominant power structures, while attempting to provide alternative narratives (often subjective) in text, image and map form.

I journeyed down the prom from the north to the south end and back again. Being one of the sunny days of the recent boost of sun, and also half-term, the prom and beach were quite busy. Although, since my walk was psychogeographically-oriented my remarks, as you will see, concentrate on what is often not noticed on a casual viewing.

Donut Heaven (or the Disneyfication of the Seaside)

While the kiss-me-quick quality of the 60s seaside resort has diminished, it has become an almost hyper-real space that is highly oriented around consumerism. The proliferation of signs is positively Baudrillardian, it was difficult not to be interpellated by them and I had to make a conscious effort to notice other stimuli.


I was particularly drawn to the notices that were prohibiting particular actions and behaviours. Here is a sample of some of those on the prom itself. I especially like the one that says “This area is for pony rides only. No kites, chairs, balls, inflatables, etc” and then pretends to be a council notice by writing (in marker pen) KL & WNBC on the bottom which stands for King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council:





Nevertheless, the deckchair hiring companies seemed to challenge this draconian approach and, in fact, do the opposite by allowing you to help yourself to the deckchairs, prior to paying for them:


Utilities Boxes

There appear to be a number of power boxes, serving the nearby outlets, within easy access of the prom. There were far too many to photograph, (even though it would be an interesting project to do so).


I looked for utility boxes on google and found this stylish one made by a company in the US. It might be an interesting idea for Hunstanton to fund an art project for blending the utility boxes in with their respective backgrounds. This will simultaneously turn them into a (tourist) feature unique to the resort.

This image has been reproduced by the kind permission of American Gas Products Inc

Liminal Spaces

A couple of interesting (lost) spaces caught my attention. The image I have called “Welcome to My Garden” was located between one of the large plastic childrens’ slides on the prom and the themed crazy golf course. The other, “Discrete Concrete”, was a nook under the ramp of the Surfside Cafeteria.

Welcome to My Garden

Discrete Concrete

The deep topographer Nick Papadimitriou is often attracted to these in-between spaces. So, too, is Patrick Keiller as can be seen in his Robinson series of films.

Robinson in Space 

(go to 45 seconds into the film to see an example of a liminal space – a portakabin at Elephant and Castle, London)

Nick Papadimitriou’s site: (films by John Rogers)


Past and Present

At one of the car parks adjacent to the prom is this road sign which appears within the car parking space, against the wall that divides the car park from the prom:

Douglas Bader, the famous pilot who crashed while doing aerobatics and lost both his legs, must have some connection to Hunstanton outside of his relationship to Norfolk (where he served in the RAF). However, following a quick search I am unable to find what this is.

There is a tourist notice nearby (headed “Hunstanton Past and Present: The Promenade”) which says: “The seafront from the Green to the fairground was developed during the 1920s and 1930s on land reclaimed from the sea.”.

According to The Hunstanton Story: The First Fifty Years 1861-1911 by Mary Rhodes: the first section of the prom was not built until 1879. The second section “was erected later, roomy shelters with long wooden seats all round the walls and an ornamental balcony on the roof were added. Convenient slopes and steps at each end gave access to the beach. Another refinement about this time was the drinking fountain on the Green at the head of the pier – a generous gift presented by Jamesina Waller.”



Hunstanton, a place I visited as a child in the 60s, has become infinitely more interesting due to my psychgeographical drift along its prom. It has also hugely improved as an urban space and resort in comparison to the slump it appeared to be in in the early 1980s. My schizocartography will continue with the second part of this blog which covers the area behind the prom at the North end.


Rhodes, Mary. Date Unknown. The Hunstanton Story: The First Fifty Years 1861-1911 (Warwick: Private Publication).

For information on my other work please go to: particulations

Found images of Brighton promenade

In Promenades on June 9, 2010 at 9:13 am

A short snippet from our paper for the Liminal Landscapes symposium next month.  This shows how we are using web technology to collect material for a ‘working convolute’ on Brighton.  We are gathering images taken by other people that have been uploaded to the web, as a way of accessing representations and uses of the promenade, in an attempt to develop a methodological approach that builds on Benjamin’s methods in the Arcades Project.

“Becker (1974) provides a methodological way of thinking about this potential social research resource.  This relates to the second conception of photography held by Benjamin. The possibilities for producing new constellations of knowledge by using photography suggests possibilities for the collection and reconfiguration of images of the promenade as a way to access its history. Becker imagines the ‘sociologist photographer’ as collecting a plethora of images of a social situation, almost at random, taking care not to pre-judge what is of value in the resultant images.  A consideration of the photographs then guides a further concentration in the research as the sociologist photographer spends time with “his [sic] contact sheets and work prints” and developing questions about the practices and situations that he observes.  This process of collection and interpretation then opens up further avenues of enquiry and begins to produce social knowledge.  In Benjamin’s terms it constructs new configurations of the past, of a kind only accessible through these technological means.  In this study we update Becker’s work, and by seeking to reduce the impacts of sociological bias in our approach to the collection of images we aim to prevent any imposition of the very false coherences that Benjamin had tried to prevent through his parataxic method.

In practical terms, we have utilised web-technology to trawl through the online photo-hosting site flickr in an automated process.  We have set up a yahoo pipe, a relatively new piece of web 2.0 software which aggregates data from the web in the form of RSS feeds, images, blog posts and visual media.  Crucially, a pipe then provides a visual interface through which you can access the aggregated data.  A pipe can be user-customised to a great extent.  Although, following Becker and Benjamin, we aim to collect data without prejudicing it in advance, we are also conscious of sociological / historical practices and the way in which fields of inquiry are constructed to guide even the most inductive studies.  In this respect we have delimited the ‘feeds’ to the pipe to include only the most popular photo-hosting site and also set up keywords to structure these feeds.  Images uploaded to flickr are ‘tagged’ by users to aid retrieval and to publicise the images to a wider audience.  The processes by which images arrive in the virtual public/private spaces of the internet and are distributed throughout them via social networks, direct our attention to ‘sociogram’ quality of all photography.”

*we’re working out how to reference these images accurately.  All of these pictures have been uploaded on a creative commons license and we’ve given links to each of their sources in our bibliography.

Managed liminality

In Promenades on May 26, 2010 at 11:34 am

A collection of photos from Brighton’s promenade that have been brought together to illustrate the concept of ‘managed liminality’, which is a term we are developing in our work to describe how the carnivalesque freedoms offered by the concept of the liminal can come to serve dominant power relations.  These images show how the liminality of the shore is limited and exploited through the regulation of the promenade itself.

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Memorialising the Piers and Beaches: The Post Card Past

In Promenades on April 2, 2010 at 8:09 am

This website details the post-card history of several Sussex piers and some of the post cards contain telling social details that illuminate how the ‘tourist shore’ was used.  It is not alone in utilising post cards as a source of information – or rather of nostalgia as this site and the ‘nostalgia industry’ makes clear – and there is in it use of images something close to that we which are attempting.  It was, after all, a photographic exploration of the seaside that helped inspire this project.

Memorialising the promenade

In Promenades on March 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

The starting point for this post was a thought about one of Wesley’s earlier posts on this blog in which he said:

“The promenade thus has the odd quality of being of the past and of now and so it is a key locus of that strangest use of the past, Heritage.”

I was thinking this through during a visit to Deal, a Kentish seaside town.  All along the promenade at deal we see benches, not the strategically placed municipal furniture common to the promenade form, but in this case small wooden benches, in some place standing alone and in some places squashed up against one another.  These benches ran the length of the promenade.

On closer inspection it became clear that these benches were part of a heritization of the promenade at deal, but on the level of the individual and of the family, rather than as a selective social history of the seaside.  These personal histories have now been made public.  These stories told by these benches are now told together and the individual connections of the deceased to the seaside are stitched together in a patchwork of memories that illuminate an otherwise unremarkable stretch of concrete sea-defences.

These benches all commemorate the lives of individuals, sometimes groups of related individuals.  The wood of the bench is typically engraved with the name of the deceased, their dates of birth and of death and a message.  The message is sometimes an expression of the grief of the family left behind and sometimes a short phrase that in some way sums up the life that has passed: “Shine on you crazy diamond” providing an example that presents us with a new constellation of the seaside and 60’s psychedelia….

By turning our backs to the sea and lowering our gaze we can access these personal heritages, artefacts of the social space that offer us glimpses into the lives lived on previous promenades.

Littlehampton Promenade Summer 2009: Towards a Convolute on Photography

In Promenades on January 18, 2010 at 6:40 pm

The Bourgeois Re-Colonisation of the British Sea-side.

One of the interesting things about the British Sea-side is its partial return to the field of bourgeois leisure possibilities.

Consider these architectural structures from (what is effectively) either end of Littlehampton Promenade.

First we have a set of kiosks in a rather remarkable flowing concrete style.

One end of the kiosks structure by the pier on Littlehampton Promenade

Another part of the kiosks structure

These are an extension of the leisure industry complex (now called Harbour Park but with a long pedigree) that lies behind the shore.  Theses kiosks are for the sale of plastic beech goods (parti-coloured windmills and so forth), the greasy food of the english sea-side, rock (of course), & big brand ice-creams.  They are somewhat tacky and down-at-heel and essentially class (or perhaps distinction) less and thus utterly opposite the next architectural form we need to consider.

The East Beach Cafe is perhaps an even more remarkable architectural form (and from my own experience an effective Faraday Cage) but it is its class (or distinction) opposition to the flowing concrete kiosks that is of interest.

sea facing elevation

Structural detail

This photograph contains a hint of the distinction function of this structure and business; the broken floor light in the right foreground is not the only one of the cafe’s illuminations to have been ‘vandalised’ (more below).

sea facing elevation

The East Beech Cafe's kiosk

The differences are perhaps clearest in the type of ice cream advertised for sale at the two different locations; Nestle’s at the kiosks and Downsview Farmhouse (a ‘locally sourced’ item) at the cafe.

The ‘rusted’ metal insanity of the East Beach Cafe is emblematic of the re-gentrification of this part of the british sea-side.  The whole of the South East of England was very strongly effected by the last asset price bubble in the housing market and Littlehampton was the site of a great deal of housing development – especially along the town-side bank of the river Arun – and this has brought a wave of settlement by more affluent people who require services and goods that meet and mark their status regardless of the economic & status conditions of the surrounding community (hence the appearance of shops such as this – cycling having moved firmly into a bourgeois orbit in the past decade because of its green distinction function).

Home (or second-home) ownership is not the only cause of this bourgeoisification of the sea-side.  The distinction function of green & of ecological symbolism also plays a part.  The Britain and the other island of our archipelago are sufficiently small that one is never very far from the sea and either via the still functioning remnant of our public transport system or by ecologically friendly automobile one can easily indulge in leisure by the sea with a relatively limited ecological effect thus proving ones green bona fides.  Combine this with the continuing importance of the sun spots of the Mediterranean – especially Spain – to the upper-working class & petit-bourgeois and we can see that the sheer absence of the less capitalised social group (always a welcome dimension of status play) allows the british sea-side to act as a field of bourgeois distinction.

The opposition to this bourgeois incursion is plain to see in the response to the the East Beach Cafe.

'Vandalised' illuminations

Most of the illumination lights positioned around the cafe in order to render it visible at night where broken in this fashion at the time of this particular visit.  The uncleared away glass that is obviously visible in this photograph testifies to this being recent(ish) damage (at the time of the image) and it seems likely that the cafe and the local youth population are already engaged in the endless call-and-response of vandalism & repair.  The class disposition issues of this are obvious; one local group feel as though the cafe is not for them because they recognise its symbolic violence and exclusion activity and react with the damage to property that is the most common class response of the excluded.

Piping the promenades

In Promenades on January 4, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Benjamin’s notes for the Arcades Project, that were saved and brought together by Bataille to leave us with the fragmented text that we have for this project today, originally included a folder of photos.  We assume from references within the text and elsewhere that Benjamin intended to include photography within his final work, but this folder has never been found.  We’ve been trying to find a way of incorporating photography into our adaptation of Benjamin’s approach for the study of the seaside promenade.  You’ll see we have used photography quite extensively in previous posts here, and here (for example).  We’ve now also decide to make use of an online tool for aggregating photostreams from flickr and merging them into a stream of relevance to this project.

The tool we are using is yahoo pipes, which allows us to automatically retrive photos from flickr taken by anyone who has stored them online in this way, where those photos are tagged with keywords that we select, like ‘promenade’ or ‘esplenade’.  Benjamin was developing methods in his analysis that dealt with snippets of information, the detritus of society, adverts, merchandising, observations of what might otherwise be judged insignificant; this yahoo pipe helps us to collect images in a similar way.  You can click on the image below to go straight to the pipe, which is a constantly updating stream of images.  We’ve also included a feed of these images at the botom of this blog.

We’ll be developing this pipe over the coming months, refining our use of tags and developing a method for anlysing a dynamic flow of images.

Mimicry and morphology

In Promenades on August 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm

These pictures were taken on a recent visit to Teignmouth in South Devon in the UK.  The aim of this post is to show how the form of the promenade embodies a contradiction in the relationship to nature that is expressed at the seaside; the construction both celebrates and denies the liminality and temporality of the beach itself.  The permanent structure of the promenade fixes this contradiction in space.

tourist info on the prom

tourist info on the prom

We can see in this picture the replication of the relationship between the sea and the beach in the spatial arrangement of the promenade.  The beach stands as a bullwark to the expanse of the sea and as it’s artifact.  The  beach in turn is contained by the permanance of the concrete promenade which, although it gives the impression of being a leisurely space is in fact the most active space of the seafront, a place of transit for people and cars moving between the natural and the manmade, as well as between spaces of consumption and lesiure.  The promenade also seperates the beach from a constructed natural space in which the local authority maintains gardens and flower displays, a now empty lido, a play area and a bowling green.  Finally, a road forms another active strip between the town-proper and the sea.   This configuration is common to seaside promenades where layers of protection and commodification produce a striated space in which the liminality of the coast is brought in and atomised into a manageable mix of uses.

Teignmouth beach seen from the pier

Teignmouth beach seen from the pier


This photo shows the first strip of the promenade form, matching the line of the beach and even mimicing its colour in this case.  It offers the same expansive perspective of depth and, in the picture below, the same bleak uniformity as the beach itself on a wet cloudy day.


Suddenly, the promenade takes on the curvature of the bay and the promenaders are offered the opportunity to pay for the hire of a relaxing deck chair on a bizzare simulacrum of the natural environment of the beach.

deck chairs for hire

deck chairs for hire

 Another space of consumtion also mimics the natural relationship between land and sea, inviting us into the excitement of that relationship in a celebration of engineering, dominance and capital.



Once the defenses were in place, planners were free to re-create nature behind the scenes, produncg further strips of space; mimicing again the relationship between land and sea.  In this case, a lido creates a minuture, safe sea.




 Finally, the physical structure of the promenade itself takes the shape of a wave resisting the encroachment of the sea.  It serves as a mirror, reflecting the force of the waves back onto themselves to prevent erosion, with brutalist poured concrete gateways providing defensible enterance and exit points for tourists foolhardy enough to expose themselves to the force of nature.



While I was in Teignmouth, racing up and down the promenade between the beach and the cafe with my family to build sandcastles in between showers of rain, I had a conversation with an elderly local resident who told me how the original promenade had, until the 1960s, been a hollow structure supported by pillars.  This meant that holidaymakers could run “under the boardwalk” when it rained, or set up camp underneath in anticipation of typical British summer weather.  The changes were supposed to prevent flooding, but made little difference.  How different contemporary seaside experiences would have been then, with a promenade that spoke of shelter and enjoyment rather than defence…


The configuration of promenade space exemplifies the contradiction in oure relationship to the liminality of the beach.  The space lovingly reproduces the exciting geometry of the coast in strips of concrete and green, fluid and fixed, whilst also defending us againt the natural forces that have produced that geometry.  The promenade offers us constructed natural forms, allied with an opportunity to consume and to appreciate the power we have exerted over our environment in the name of consumption.   The liminality of the beach is packaged and made ‘safe’ by a concrete construction that protects from true liminality and its destructive potential.