Last summer photographer Linda Brownlee was organising for a weekend away with her family over the bank holiday. Linda’s freelance so days off in a row are rarely confirmed and the trip was a last minute plan, hunting for a destination to visit with her two tiny children in tow. With the go-to destinations near to London of Margate and Whitstable booked up, the Brownlee’s spotted Great Yarmouth as a possibility and a caravan was booked.
For those who don’t know Great Yarmouth, it’s your typical British seaside town. But, it’s not a seaside trip ticked off by a Londoner fleeing to its shores either. It’s got a beach and an arcade and has that constant sticky feeling to it — which could be from either too much vinegar on your chips or that familiar sense of sand stuck in your socks. It’s quite weird really, a slight Brexit Britain air to the whole place. “It’s totally weird,” Linda agrees. “I had that excitement when I got there though. You know, when you go back and you think of slot machines, ice cream, all the kitsch stuff that you absolutely loved as a kid but then you find it slightly stressful as an adult. You’re like oh my god, it’s so full on — but amazing.”
Naturally, Linda picked up her camera to document the place but not purposefully or with a project in mind. Understandably not wanting to be behind the lens at all times, especially when on holiday, she split her days in half. “I kind of said let’s go somewhere new and I did want to explore it,” the photographer admits. “I said I’d do half days where I take my camera and the other half with the family, which is almost how I try to do most of my project work at the moment, nipping off for a bit. It’s just sort of the way of having to work at the moment just because the youngest is around 15 months now.” This pace is evident in the resulting images, featuring a balance of the intensity of a weekend away with your family and a couple of days to get away from it all. “It definitely is different when you’re exploring something in a lighthearted way with a lighthearted approach. For some reason, I didn’t put any pressure on myself taking these photos.”
In turn, the photographs of the trip are a portrait of the genuine place with the local families who travel there regularly. It features awkward teenagers who’ve maybe sneaked off from the parents for a bit, tanned grannies and granddads in charge of toddlers, or, dads with their bellies out for a game of footy. “There were no cool people there and that’s why I loved it,” Linda explains. “You know when you go to Whitstable or any of those places, there’s a trendy population of your kind of 20 and 30-year-olds or posh 40-year-olds, there’s none of that demographic. It’s just loads of families and older people. We were there on a really sunny weekend and it was absolutely buzzing; kind of frantic almost.”
Where Linda was staying, pretty much by accident, also adds to the series’ authenticity. Staying in a caravan park the backdrops to a number of photographs is identical, each featuring the same replica wood panelling as the neighbours. “I have to say, the caravan park was amazing,” says Linda. “It was brilliant with two kids, everything was so easy. You didn’t even have to go into town because there was an arcade in the caravan park. Actually, there was a Burger King too! Everything is there actually. Oh my god, and, they had a bonnie baby contest the day we were leaving — I’d forgot people actually do that.”
The uniqueness of Great Yarmouth, a place fully stuck in time but still catering to everything you’d ever need on a summer holiday in England, is thoughtfully and aptly captured by the photographer’s camera. It may not be a project with a particular meaning or aim but when it’s Linda taking your holiday snaps, they’re bound to be above and beyond anyway.
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