In A Big Fat Sky, Max Miechowski documents “the subtle complexities of life” along the British east coast
When creating the series, Max drove up and down the coastline in a rented car, capturing a dreamy quality that reflected his memories of visiting these places as a child.
- Ruby Boddington
- 5 November 2020
London-based photographer Max Miechowski has always had a knack for capturing the essence of a place through the subtleties of its landscape and the people that inhabit it. In the past, we’ve marvelled at Max’s documentation of city life, namely through his body of work focussing on Burgess Park in London. But his most recent series A Big Fat Sky takes a different turn, heading towards the British east coast to explore “the subtle complexities of life at the country’s edge” and the connection to these areas that many Brits feel.
Max grew up close to the Lincolnshire coastline and so spent many a holiday in Norfolk or Yorkshire as a child meaning “I’ve always had a connection to this part of the country,” he says when asked what drew him there. “All of us do, really,” he continues. “Living in Britain, it’s not possible to be more than 70 miles from the sea; the quirky coastal towns, arcades and candy floss, naff looking rides and fish and chips. A brave swim in the cold and murky waters if we fancy it. We all have memories of visiting these places as kids, and now many of us are rediscovering them – they have become a welcome break from city life, and were a breath of fresh air after months spent quarantined indoors.”
When beginning the series, it was his childhood memories which provided anchors for his exploration. Having focussed on London as a subject since moving there four years ago, he wanted to try something different and document a different pace of life. “I had a bit of free time, and knew I wanted to make some images, so I just rented a car and set off for the coast – I drove from south to north, sleeping in the car,” he tells us. “I set markers on the route of different spots I remember going to a child, and used that as a rough guide as I travelled. I was keen to see what these places looked and felt like as an adult, and if they still held the same magic for me that was there as a kid.”
Following his usual intuitive process, Max simply spent time in various locations with his camera and waited to see what materialised. “When I photograph, I’m always looking for moments of beauty and softness, often in places that one might not expect them to be,” he explains, touching on another reason he was drawn to documenting the east coast. “Whilst we’ve all been off enjoying the excitement of international travel, these resort towns have been struggling along, largely unchanged. They’re not cool, or trendy,” Max says. “Life along the British east coast rarely seems to culminate in anything worthy of even the British press. But, despite all that, there is something very special about it.”
Through his meanderings, what Max discovered was a dramatically beautifully and changing landscape, from idyllic coastal towns in Suffolk to industrial silhouettes around Redcar and beyond. While aesthetically invigorating, this also served as “a reminder of the north-south divide in this country, and the complex economic narrative that has been running for years.” In turn, through what appears to be straight-up documentary photography, Max begins to unpick complex sociopolitical narratives, highlighting the often overlooked communities that exist in Britain and the damaging impact of globalisation austerity.
Aesthetically, the images in A Big Fat Sky are soft and muted, a direct backlash to the usual gritty or tacky documentation of these areas. Through focussing on “rich colours and delicate lighting”, Max wanted to highlight the connection we all have to these places. “I wanted the images to have a dreamy quality that reflected my memories of visiting these places as a kid,” he says. As a result the series is poetic and quiet, allowing viewers to slowly stroll through towns and across beaches, just as Max did.
And it’s here that the crux of the series becomes clear as what Max is trying to do, is remind viewers of the beauty that exists so close to home. “Since the pandemic more people in Britain have begun to appreciate our coast, recognising how much of an important role it has played in our lives. Hopefully this will continue long after cheap air travel returns, and these towns will see the economic boost they’ve needed,” he says. “So few people have really travelled around this country, yet are quick to get on a plane to some far-off destination, to document and tell stories about places they have no real connection to. If we look close enough, there is beauty in the places that often feel unbearably familiar. We don’t always need the exotic. I think this country has a real charm to it, and is a great place to travel – especially with a camera.”
GalleryMax Miechowski: A Big Fat Sky (Copyright © Max Miechowski, 2020)
Max Miechowski: A Big Fat Sky (Copyright © Max Miechowski, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.