Sandra Mickiewicz captures the surprising beauty of Jaywick, the most deprived town in Britain

Turning her lens on its residents, the photographer aims to break down the negative connotations associated with the small seaside town.

4 February 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

The moment that Sandra Mickiewicz first walked into the darkroom at college, she thought: “this is where I belong.” The Polish documentary photographer, currently living and working in North London, first discovered the medium at the age of 15. Then, after a few rejections and, quite frankly, never giving up, Sandra graduated from Middlesex University in 2018 and her journey really started to kick off. Since then, she’s exhibited her work at numerous shows, including British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Britain 2019 – where she won the award – the Free Range Show at the Old Truman Brewery in London and Middlesex Photographic Portrait Prize, London. Sandra has also graced the pages of many publications, such as Creative Boom, Trip, The South West Collective and Loupe.

Drawn in by life’s conventional moments, Sandra uses her camera as a tool to communicate what she sees. She has this incredible ability to turn something so simple into a moment of warmth. “I’m really inspired by people and their stories,” Sandra tells It’s Nice That. Noting how often she prefers to work with strangers, she explains there’s many reasons for this decision: “I get to know their stories which I’ve never heard before. It helps me to improve my communication skills and build my knowledge – I can experience a lot of great things that I don’t think I would have if I didn’t my camera with me.”

For a recent series, the photographer took to Jaywick, a small seaside town in the county of Essex and just 80 miles away from Londona. Titled Happy Place, Sandra explains that the inspiration for shooting here derived from her own past – she grew up in a small village in northern Poland, with a population of less than 1,000 and “everyone knew each other”. Then, her parents decided to move to London for a “better future” for the family. “20 years ago, living in the United Kingdom as immigrants was like a big dream,” she explains. “Life was easy and people had more money to provide support for families and loved ones; it was like paradise.” Yet, as with every country, there’s poverty and social issues that are in desperate need of improvement. Thus, while working on this body of work, Sandra wanted to document how the residents in Jaywick went about their daily lives, and “supported each other in very difficult circumstances.”

GallerySandra Mickiewicz: Happy Club

Many have heard of Jaywick without even realising. The run down seaside resort has been marked as the most deprived town in Britain – it was even inaccurately used in a pro-Trump poster during the US midterm elections in order to illustrate deprivation in America. So when Sandra decided to photograph Jaywick, she turned her focus to its residents and the ways in which she could shed a positive light on an area riddled with stigma. “The community supports each other and they get help from the local council,” she says. “The main idea for creating Happy Club was to bring more activities for children, to get more support for people with disabilities and to also improve the local area.”

Looking over the series, there are two images that Sandra found the most memorable. One of which is a photograph of a man named David [below], who was looking outside of a window when she came to visit him at his house. “To me, this image looks like it was taken somewhere in the United States – probably because of this jacket and the interior of the house.” David is someone who likes to collect miniature train sets, which can be seen on display around him in a somewhat childlike manner. The second is a portrait of Lynn and Ted [above], a couple who have been married for many years and live in a small holiday house by the North Sea. When Sandra came to visit the couple, they had moved all the furniture around the house as they felt like they needed more space. “Lynn and Ted live with their 11 cats, which I found incredible,” Sandra recalls. “The cats were everywhere, even on small objects paintings and photographs.”

There’s a huge sense of warmth that rings throughout Happy Club. Despite the many negative aspects associated with the town – as one that’s impoverished and suffering from stereotypes – the photographs are an example of how people can still behold a sense of community and happiness, even in hard times.

GallerySandra Mickiewicz: Happy Club

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and continued to work with us on a freelance basis. In November 2019 she joined the team again, working with us as a Staff Writer on Mondays and Tuesdays. She's contactable on

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