Max Miechowski photographs the UK’s eroding coastline
For such a place-sensitive project, the London-based photographer switched up his portrait-centric practice and turned his attention to landscapes.
- Olivia Hingley
- 25 August 2022
It was when travelling for his last series, A Big Fat Sky, that photographer Max Miechowski became aware of the disappearing landscapes of Britain’s east coast. With cliffs slowly being pulled into the North Sea by landslides and coastal erosion, Max was shocked to have not previously been aware of whole towns, homes and businesses slowly being lost to the environment – in a place where much of his previous work was centred. It was this realisation, and how much the occurrence fitted into Max’s focus, that led him to begin his series Land Loss. “So much of my work is about connection between people and landscape,” Max details, “and this work felt so much about people’s connection to time.”
While the series may focus on the subject matter and themes that Max is attracted to, the project also offers a new perspective and approach for the photographer. Traditionally a portrait photographer, the project gave Max the opportunity to focus on landscapes, a fact he says was “inevitable” with this particular project. “Now, I feel the beauty and significance of the landscapes surrounding us and how they shape and inform our experiences,” he says.
One of the things that most interested Max about these landscape shots was how seemingly idyllic they ended up looking. While the issue of coastal erosion obviously adds an element of impending loss, the series has a palpable sense of peacefulness and calm. Creating this by focussing on “quiet moments that would often go unnoticed”, Max also sees the lighting throughout the project as being a key component. The warm tones and soft lighting certainly give the series an almost dream-like quality.
But – and much to his character – Max became “quickly became interested in the people living in this fragile landscape”. Beginning to get to know people and hear their stories – Max explains how it's important for him to build a relationship with those he photographs. One particular portrait stands out for Max, that of Faith in the living room of her family home. “Her family have lived there for generations,” Max explains. “Her grandparents cafe fell into the sea some years ago, and the cliffs gently creep closer to the row of white houses still owned by the family”.
This experience of displacement is a universal one for people who live so close to the cliff edge, and is also present in Dave’s story, one subject Max forged a particularly strong relationship with. Meeting him on the Yorkshire cliffs, Max learned that he's lived there for 25 years, his house lost to the waves once before. Living in a caravan, he remained on the slither of land that was left.
While visiting Dave regularly, there was one particular trip that resulted in one of Max’s favourite photos from the series. Dave suggested they climbed into an abandoned house next to his caravan, for it would be a good photo opportunity. “We went through into one of the rooms, which had a gentle light flooding in through the window and a view over the cliffs,” Max says. “There was a butterfly in there on the window sill, barely moving. Dave gently picked it up. Holding it softly, he looked at me and said ‘There’s your picture’.” The final photograph – a butterfly resting in amongst the depilated house – resonates with the series as a whole. It's an image of life and resilience, existing with the foundations of quiet and slow destruction.
GalleryMax Miechowski: Land Loss (Copyright © Max Miechowski, 2022)
Max Miechowski: Land Loss (Copyright © Max Miechowski, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.