British photographer Simon Roberts has spent the past three
years creating Pierdom, a comprehensive survey of
Britain's piers. Predominantly constructed during the 19th
Century in the context of expanding Victorian seaside resorts and
railways, these structures were often erected as landing docks for
pleasure steamers and other sea craft. Growing to accommodate
the needs of day-trippers escaping the smog of the city, engineers
began to incorporate bandstands, cafes and music halls into their
designs, embracing the growing notion of 'pleasure seeking' by the seaside.
Britain's piers have become cultural landmarks, tracing history,
national identity and economic fortunes from Victorian
industrialism to the post-war boom, and finally now to the recent
economic downturn. Pierdom addresses the historical
significance of these architectural structures placed in comparison
with their modern interpretation and functionality. It is this
socio-cultural element of the landscape that has sustained Roberts'
interest, revealing a deep fascination with the way humans interact
with their environment, and in eccentric British pastimes.
Roberts' large format photographs are taken with great technical
precision, often from elevated positions encorporating peripheral
details and the elements, thus enriching the viewing experience of
each print. Through formal devices associated with the picturesque;
perspective, asymmetry and juxtaposition, the photographs engage us
with contemporary issues about our uneasy and fragile relationship
to both nature, and our urban environments.The series is at once
factual yet warm, a broad architectural and anthropological study
of our coastline as a microcosm of British society.
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