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Low Tide

Dianne Duenzl | New Mexico, United States

Felpham Beach, West Sussex, England, July 2016

An examination of low tide along the coast of southern England, reflecting on cycles of change, family and mid-life.

Low Tide

For 15 summers I have traveled with my husband and children to visit our family on the south coast of England. For me, it was love at first sight. The lush green, the thatched village buildings and the most wondrous sea. Having grown up with a Dad in the Coast Guard, we often lived near the beach, whereas I now live in the desert of New Mexico. It is said that home is where the heart is, and my heart surely lives at our England home. I often ponder how this place has known three generations of people that I love.

The family house is down the block from the English Channel. The beach is ever changing, reflecting many different moods. At high tide, the waves crash on the boulders and pull at the pebbles, creating the most soothing and hypnotic sounds as the waves recede. Low tide is completely different. At it’s lowest, one can walk about a quarter mile out into the water and only be chest high.

For 15 years I have walked this beach with my camera in hand, noticing this same scene differently over days, weeks, and now years. I contemplate the changes that have taken place at this location, and with them the changes that have taken place in me over the years. I came here first as a new mother with an infant. Now I am very much in midlife.

Low tide is a fascinating time to examine the great expanse of compact sand that harbors countless varieties of creatures that were so recently hidden under water. There are numerous rock pools, housing small crabs, shrimp, winkles and whelks.

Prominent at low tide are the wooden groynes, which resemble fences built up and down the beach and are designed to inhibit erosion. Submerged and entombed at high tide twice in every 24 hours, they remind me of underwater sentries that drown twice each day. The fascinating textures of the seaweed and the rusted bolts lend a singular character to each structure. Encrusted with decades of barnacles, each is an individual. These watery knights bear witness to the life and death that surrounds them, the constant change.

I think one of my favorite things is to walk on a beach. In all types of weather. Exhilarating winds and salty spray. Calm serenity and still quiet. Shrieking seagulls and crashing waves. Stormy gray. Sparkling light. Walking by the sea, feeling refreshed and invigorated, I’m naturally drawn to grab my camera.

This body of work was captured digitally, with a Canon EOS Mark II camera body and 24-105mm lens. Over the years, I have primarily photographed this beach with black and white film. I have used medium format, 35mm, panoramic and Holga cameras.

This presentation is part of a larger project, an on-going exploration of Felpham Beach and the surrounding countryside in West Sussex, England. I aim to document the cycles of change along this stretch of coast as long as I am able.

Dianne Duenzl




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