Brighton West Pier
- Place of origin:
Brighton (Photographed, made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Gift of Simon Roberts
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case MB2H, shelf DR6
Simon Roberts is a British photographer who engages with landscape to address themes of identity and belonging. He originally studied a BA Hons Degree in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield (1996), which has subsequently informed much of his photographic practice. Shooting in recognizable locations in both the UK and abroad, Roberts’ photographs explore the relationships between people and their surroundings and in doing so, comment on contemporary social, economic and political issues. His images capture tableaux vivants that depict a cultural as well as physical landscape, framing scenes of leisure and social interaction within the characteristic views, whether they be British countryside, residential streets, or tourist sights of Rome or Switzerland. Roberts creates his images with technical precision, using a large format camera and often shooting from elevated positions to incorporate peripheral details and the elements. Roberts’ considered compositions make use of formal devices associated with the picturesque, such as perspective, asymmetry and juxtaposition, to create a coherence with the traditions of the landscape genre.
This photograph is is from the series Pierdom, which Roberts made between 2010-2013. The body of work is a comprehensive survey of over 100 sites of Britain’s Pleasure Piers, of which under half now remain, in various states of destruction. As Victorian seaside resorts grew in popularity, these exotic structures were erected as landing docks for sea craft, growing to include bandstands, cafes and music halls to accommodate the needs of day-trippers escaping the city smog. Where still standing, Roberts’ images picture the piers thrusting out into the sea, surrounded by the signs of the 21st century world they now occupy. His survey also includes the sites of coastal loss, where piers were destroyed by fierce weather and fires, or dismantled during the 2nd World War to prevent German landings. The piers embody architectural achievement and Victorian industrialism, but they also signify changing social pursuits, economic fortunes, and a contemporary re-awakening of our appreciation of these cultural and historic landmarks.
The skeletal form of Brighton West Pier is instantly recognisable, having fallen victim to fire destruction as recently as 2003. Yet, Roberts’ image from 2011 is also now a historical document, as the pier was subject to further damage from storms in 2014. The image represents an ever-changing social as well as physical landscape in Britain.
Photograph of the skeletan of Brighton West Pier, which burnt down in 2003. The pier is to the right of the image. Brighton beach is in the foreground. Visitors to the beach can be seen at various points along the shoreline. There is a concrete jetty in the centre of the picture.
Place of Origin
Brighton (Photographed, made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 61 cm, Width: 51 cm
Photograph by Simon Roberts, 'Brighton West Pier', East Sussex, 2011, c-type print, 51x61cm
Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection