The ever-changing Dungeness landscape

The ever-changing Dungeness landscape

Mark Cornick
SIGMA Ambassador

Mark Cornick is a Surrey-based photographer working on abstract and contemporary landscape projects in coastal and urban locations.

He is an associate of The Royal Photographic Society, having gained distinction with a selection of images from his ‘Fathom’ series, and also a SIGMA ambassador.

Mark Cornick
© Mark Cornick x Sigma

For me, Dungeness is one of the most captivating coastal landscapes in the UK, and a place where you can shoot eye-catching and unique images. I have been working on a project for a number of years, called ‘Nuclear Nature’ documenting the area. Dungeness is a coastal area on the south coast of England, forming the most southerly point on the Romney Marsh. The site is an area of special scientific interest and is home to over six hundred species of plants and flowers. In stark contrast, it also houses two nuclear power stations.

I find it hard sometimes to put into words the “atmosphere” of Dungeness, and why I am so drawn to the area, and have spent so much time trying to portray its unconventional beauty through photography. It is certainly otherworldly, and is often referred to as “The Fifth Continent”.

© Mark Cornick

My first visit to Dungeness back in 2014 sparked my interest in learning and creating photography projects, shaping the way I approach my photography even to this very day. As soon as I had returned from that first trip and edited my first photo essay, I knew that I had to make return visits to the area to build a portfolio of work about the headland.

Over the years I have been photographing Dungeness, I have seen the many aspects of the area change, sometimes only subtly, but distinctly, with many of the iconic fishing huts and boats being lost to either storm damage and more sadly, vandalism.

Recently there has been a great deal of rejuvenation of the area, with many of the cottages and structures being repurposed for holiday lets. A lot of work has been completed by established architectural firms, with the refurbishment of partially destroyed structures into modern, fashionable lets.

Throughout the years I have managed to capture some of this change through photographs, and I believe this has given the project a new direction and focus. It has now been possible for me to put together comparison photographs showing the changing face of the area.

There is also much to be gained from visiting an area during the different seasons. I had always been a winter season visitor to Dungeness, as I love to photograph the area under looming, domineering skies, which has given some of my images a certain unsettling atmosphere.

Visiting in early June for the first time, it took a while to adjust to photographing Dungeness in bright sunlight, with flowers in bloom and people enjoying ice creams whilst walking along the shingle. The images may not be so dramatic, but are equally as important as they continue the documentation of the area.

I now like to classify myself as a ‘project’ photographer. I enjoy working on long-term projects such as this one, smaller mini projects created during a specific trip, and sometimes projects that might only last a day. I find that it is vital for me when it comes to structuring my work, and separating the different genres of photography I like to create.

Working on projects can also give you the focus and drive to keep getting out to create, especially if there is an end goal for the project. This could be to publish a zine or book, maybe an exhibition or a panel of images for a distinction. Or of course it could be just for your own personal enjoyment, or to share on social media or a website.

My ultimate goal for my Dungeness project would be to see it presented as a photobook. Keeping this in mind helps me to visualise what images I might need to take, as I continue to build the ever-evolving story of Dungeness.

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