“Full Fathom Five” is a solo exhibition by Celia Jackson, Wales-based photographer and senior lecturer at the University of South Wales. Considering the personal character of the story behind the photographs, we would like to present it to you through Celia’s words:
Full Fathom Five
Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
(William Shakespeare, The Tempest, I. 2. 397-403)
My father spent most of his life in, on or near the sea. He was born in Whitstable, Kent, in 1925 and grew up to the sound of gulls and shrimp-sellers. Later, when he joined the RAF, he was stationed in the Far East and brought back small packets of beautiful black-and-white photographs taken with his Leica camera. These show a mixture of exotic gardens, architecture, and beach scenes featuring implausibly large, feathery palm trees and brilliant sunshine.
Later Dad acquired a small dinghy and we would sail this determinedly up and down the River Avon on summer weekends, tacking every minute or so - less on a windy day, as the river was so narrow. He would also take sailing holidays on the North Sea, living on board for several days with new-found friends; these experiences inspired the poetry and short stories he wrote many years later.
Towards the end of his life Dad would take me and his two grandchildren to the Canary Islands every summer, where the white sands and dazzling turquoise sea were always a source of joy to him. He lost his life in the sea in August 2011, off La Oliva Beach outside Corralejo, Fuerteventura. As was his habit, he was floating on his back, looking up into the intense blue of the sky, and his heart simply stopped.
The images made for Full Fathom Five represent my first hesitant steps towards making something positive from the memories of that terrible day. Like the American photographer Barbara Ess, I am “trying to photograph what cannot be photographed”, and, like her, I use the simplest of pinhole cameras to capture my way of experiencing the world.
Images featured in the exhibition were taken with cameras made of a coffee can and a biscuit tin with brass pinholes.