Roger Coulam: Pictographs 2018


Pictographs, 2018

Photographs from the Blast Co Durham 2008-2018

19 C-type prints

Artists book, edition of 3, signed

Concertina format with hand made artist’s book cover


Out of stock


Roger Coulam Pictographs 2018 is a limited edition artist’s book with 19 photographs from his Blast series. These are photographs which he took at Blast Beach, Co Durham of beach finds from here.”The Blast” is a half a mile long section of the County Durham coastline, once blighted by heavy industry. Dawdon Colliery sat on the cliff top here.  For 84 years, it dumped millions of tonnes of coal waste straight onto the beach and into the North Sea. It  became a place which he has said, appals and enthralls in equal measure.

Roger has walked and photographed in this spot for over a decade. Just as local people have combed through  the colliery spoil and landfill for jewellery and copper wire, coal and sea-glass, he too searches the “Blast”.  With future archaeology in mind, he collects small artifacts together and makes simple images with them.  He regards this as a kind of mining  – looking for artifacts washed up by the tides and which give signs about human activities.

Increasingly plastic dominates his finds, often mixing with colliery waste and landfill from previous generations.

It is entirely consistent with the sad truth that 90% of the UK’s coastal rubbish is single-use plastics.  There are approximately 5000 items of marine plastic pollution for each mile of beach. and one fish in 3 has plastic in its insides.

So Roger Coulam’s collection of images and the book forms a record of our legacy.

The Blast

The National Trust led a major clean-up in 1997 but mining pollution remains. Susan Owens wrote about Roger’s work here recently in her book Spirit of Place. She describes the landscape as like a crime scene, one of the most polluted in the world. Its water, as Coulam has documented was full of the acid tints of mining chemicals. His photographs of beach finds for this book she says are like a Victorian’s butterfly collection.

As Roger says on his website:

Thousands of men and boys mined coal 500 meters below the earth here and miles out under the North Sea. More than 100 were killed in often brutal accidents and those lives and deaths only add poignancy to what remains.

A plateau of colliery slurry and industrial waste lies along the base of the cliffs and the “sand” is made of pyrites. Rare chemicals form bright yellow crusts, and blood red pools, the largest of which is known locally as Red Lake. It can be a strange, frustrating, empty and desolate place, but the worst pollution and the final traces of heavy industry are vanishing rapidly as time and tides scour away our violent marks.

About the artist

Roger Coulam exhibited a series of photographs of storms around lighthouses in North-East England as part of our exhibition Water Rising in 2019. Roger Coulam trained initially in environmental science at Newcastle University. He began working as a photographer in 1998,  turning professional in 2003. From then until 2007 his storm-chasing career took him around the world, Now he lives in the North-East of England, around Sunderland, and concentrates on his own creative practice. His interests range widely in the natural and historic environment and he has also made many series of semi-abstract images inspired by archaeological remains, details of nature and landscape.

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