Eerie images of the Blyth Estuary

Sarah Hardy The Blyth Estuary has never looked more beguiling. Sarah Hardy talks to artist Sarah Webster about how she creates these eerie images as her first solo exhibition begins.

Sarah Hardy

Sarah Webster will sit right inside her home-made pinhole camera for up to two hours to get exactly the shot she wants. But don't expect a traditional postcard pretty number, rather Sarah, from Blythburgh, near Southwold, loves to draw out the mystery and wonder of this marvellous part of our region.

“I am constantly drawn to the beauty of the Suffolk coast,” she says. “By sitting inside my camera, I feel like a ghost listening to life being made, as I watch the exposure taking place.”

The 22-year-old uses a long-established method of photography - a pinhole camera - which requires plenty of patience and a fair bit of brawn, too. She explains: “I have been working with this ancient method of photography over a period of time - recording images using only a box and a pinhole which produces images with a mysterious magic to them. They are very different to those produced by today's sophisticated digital photography. Each image is unique, I never get the same result twice.”

Sarah, who attended St Felix School in Southwold and then Norwich Art School before completing a fine art degree at Canterbury University, started off with a simple cardboard box but gradually moved up to much larger device, now measuring 8ft by 4ft. She kept it in a fishing hut at Walberswick harbour but this year invested in a trailer so she can travel around to new locations.

And yes, she does have plenty of amusing incidents. Security officials were not too happy when she took up residence on the beach at Sizewell and someone once parked their car right infront of her pinhole camera at Southwold harbour - totally unaware of what Sarah was doing.

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She also admits to scaring people sometimes, too. “I lifted the lid of my camera and popped my head out - it gave a gentleman walking by quite a shock.”

Pinhole cameras work by allowing rays of light to travel through a single point and be projected on to a back wall or simply the back of the box. Sarah then preserves this on to mud coated paper back at her studio - the mud is always collected from the same spot as where she took the picture. Sounds complicated to those not in the know but it is an old and simple way of gaining an image.

Sarah pays tribute to her mum and dad Rosemary and Tom, and also her partner Will Lewis who helps her with some of the heavy work - you need to remember that photography isn't always as glamorous as you'd imagine! Some of her pieces of work can be 7ft long.

About 25 pieces of work will be on show at her first ever solo exhibition which opens at the weekend. Apart from several photographs created with her pinhole camera, Sarah is also showing a couple of portraits and a series of woodland paintings, produced on paper she made herself, combined with natural materials collected from the countryside.

There is a lot of variety and prices start at £100.

“This is my first solo exhibition so I really hope people will come along and see what I'm trying to do,” she says.

t The Beauty of the Blyth is on show at the Old Chapel in Blythburgh on Sunday, December 7, from 11-3pm and then again each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, also from 11-3pm, until December 21. Admission is free.