Par Docks - Associate Distinction Award - Royal Photographic Society
Project info

This panel of photographs was the culmination of a project that resulted in an Associate Distinction being awarded by the Royal Photographic Society. I spent time photographing at the docks and abandonded clay pits in Central Cornwall.

For many years, china clay from the hills above St Austell was pumped in suspension to Par Docks where it was stored in huge concrete silos before being dried and loaded aboard ships for export but in 2006, it was announced that the docks would close along with the loss of 800 jobs.

One of my earliest memories is paddling in the sea at Par, sinking up to my ankles in sand mixed with china clay, the result of spillages from the docks. This place has been a part of my consciousness for 48 years, I wanted to mark its passing.

The panel is about my sense of loss and sadness that this closure evokes; my choice of processing serving to emphasise the decline and abandonment. Once a hive of industry, now just echoes of the past and its ghosts remain.

On a site once teeming with people and activity, wagons no longer run along their steel tracks. The vast sheds and huge silos stand empty, their machinery rusting slowly. The café with its strings of bunting still poignantly clinging on, hoping for better times, no longer serves its burgers and chips.

For seaman who needed spiritual guidance with their coffee, a welcome once awaited them at the flying angel club, but this too stands empty. The harbour office no longer takes enquiries and the phone box outside no longer makes calls, it stands at a drunken angle, its door long gone.

In my central image, the cross in the concrete suggests to me the need for an epitaph… ‘rest in peace’ perhaps?