For this Assignment I had to create an assembeled photograph for a given theme. Though it was possible to create one’s own theme, I chose ‘Power Struggle’ from the options in the FiP Workbook.
My interpretation of ‘power’ is electricity, particularly nuclear generation that occurs on the Suffolk coast. We have two nuclear plants sitting next to each other: one is being decommissioned, the other coming to the end of its life and then there are plans to build a third – Sizewell C.
Being anti nuclear by inclination it might seem my thoughts would be clear and concise. But it’s complicated. While I could bring up arguments about the risks to human life and the environment and even point out connections between nuclear power and the nuclear weapons, there are more prosaic and pragmatic factors involved.
UK governments are not very good at thinking in the long term and so for years overlooked the fact that many of our nuclear plants were coming to the end of their working lives. While renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, have had seen an increase, this has occurred because of a move away from coal powered plants. Being ‘carbon lite’ nuclear is often categorised with renewable but the dangerous radioactive legacy of nuclear will be with us for centuries. So, it seems our governments have painted themselves, and us, into a corner where we are still dependent on nuclear in order to keep the lights on!
The Suffolk context adds further layers of complexity. The Suffolk coast is an empty rural location. While some jobs exist in agriculture and tourism the area needs good, well paid jobs. The power stations have provided this for many years and the building of a third will continue that tradition. So, very often the visible objections to the furtherance of nuclear power centre around the congestion and inconvenience the current plans for construction will cause. This of course seems like ‘Nimbyism’ and it may well be, for plenty of folk who live in the picturesque coastal villages have retired there or are weekenders visiting their second homes.
The final issue I’d like to bring up is a real paradox. The Suffolk coast is famed for its understated beauty. So much so it is actually designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The range of different and endangered habitats is quite remarkable: heathlands, acid grasslands, and wetlands with some of the largest reed beds in the country. These in turn are the homes to a variety of scarce and declining species, be they birds, insects or mammals. Both NGOs and local authorities do a lot to protect and enhance these places, yet it seems OK to build nuclear power stations in the midst of them all.
Here is my assembled photograph:
I chose to represent them in a patchwork (similar to Exercise 4.4). All sitting together in this way with no ‘breathing space’ between them reflects my somewhat pragmatic position on nuclear power. The placing of the individual images is less concerned with what they might have to say but how they look as a group. The key exceptions being the top left and bottom right.
Left to Right – Top to Bottom.
- I found this dead adult Herring Gull under a set of power lines when shooting for Ex. 4.11. Almost certainly it collided with the cables. This bird of a boisterous, larger than life species, a survivor into adulthood (4+ years) had its struggle for life terminated by the power lines. Finding it in this way cemented my ideas for this assignment.
- The need for electricity – we need to keep the lights on.
- Sizewell A. No longer generating. A huge monolith, it looks like a tombstone.
- Solar farm near the A12. Locked in some sort of struggle of its own perhaps, it needs CCTV surveillance. Note the ubiquitous pylons in the background.
- Those who will build Sizewell C had a consultation road show but it felt more like we were being told rather than listened too.
- The local villagers kick back. They don’t want a campus for over 1000 construction workers built in their neighbourhood.
- A Bittern: an example and symbolic of both the sensitive habitats and the species that live in them.
- The famous East Anglian large skies dissected by the power lines in this part of Suffolk
- Wind power: an alternative to nuclear. Again, note the power lines…
- Brought up in the Cold War, images of the potential of nuclear weapons are lodged in my memory. These wind blown grasses in the dunes at Sizewell are allegorical of the results of nuclear warfare.
- The village of Theberton will see over 1000 lorries per day drive through it during the construction of Sizewell C. Construction will take 10 years. This image also implies that’s all they are thinking about right now…
- These power stations are part of the national infrastructure. They are secure places aiming to keep out the public, environmental protesters and terrorists
- This bleached out human character on a barn door in Eastbridge, where the builders’ campus will be located, suggested to me that the views and opposition of local people will matter not, compared to those of the multi-nationals who are looking to profit from the new power plant.
- This is where the radioactive waste from Sizewell A was transferred to special trains. This could be used to bring materials and people to the new construction site. Local objectors feel this would be better than using lorries.
- These pylons dominate the landscape and literally tower over every one and every thing they pass. They seem symbolic of a powerful State that will disregard the local over national needs.
- So far the sea is an under exploited resource of power generation.
Contact Sheet for Assignment 4