Blackpool on England‘s northwest coast is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK. But despite an increasing number of tourists, the town’s economic and social situation is precarious: hundreds of hotels are in a state of decay, and the unemployment and drug abuse rates are among the highest in Great Britain.
Still, the town is presenting itself as a place of joy where tourists and locals may escape the reality of everyday life.
“The Black Pool” is a work about the thin line between monotony and distraction, between illusion and disillusion, by the 35-year-old German photographer Miguel Brusch.
During his time studying photography at the Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie, in Berlin, Miguel had the chance to travel to the UK to shoot a project about Brexit, with the sponsorship of a Berlin art foundation. According to him, Blackpool was the chosen area because a large majority of the district voted to leave the European Union.
As Brexit can force the British population to opt for more holidays in national land instead of abroad, the locals were motivated with the promise that the touristic destination of Blackpool would boom after the transition. However, the reality is still the precarious economic and social condition, and it was precisely this contrast that Miguel tried to capture in his work.
“Roughly speaking, this work is a portrait of the English coastal town of Blackpool. But it’s, even more, a story of distraction, illusion, and disillusion, set in a popular tourist destination that is fighting against social and economic deterioration.“
“My school, the Ostkreuzschule for Photography, organized a collaboration with a small Berlin art foundation, the Klaus-Stemmler-Stiftung: I was one of eight students that were given the opportunity to travel to the Manchester region and shoot their own projects about Brexit — an abstract political process that is very challenging to depict in a photographic work.”
“I decided to shoot my project in Blackpool (which is a short train ride from Manchester) after I got to know that a large majority in Blackpool voted to leave the EU. For decades the town has been fighting against falling revenues. One of the big promises of the pro-Brexit campaign in Blackpool was: if the UK leaves the European Union, Blackpool will attract more domestic tourists, because it will be more difficult and expensive for British citizens to travel abroad. A false promise, in my opinion.”
“My work often deals with the psychological effects of interactions between people and their surroundings. I like to explore the state of mind of certain groups and the social and political causes that lie behind it.”
“Although millions of tourists come to Blackpool every year, the town is struggling with falling revenues. Hundreds of hotels are in a state of decay and the unemployment rate is among the highest in Great Britain.”
“Long before that trip, I had seen Dougie Wallace’s fantastic work about the excessive stag and hen parties in Blackpool, which is the other side of this town.”
“Millions of tourists come here every year to celebrate bachelorette parties, take a sunbath at the beach or ride the rollercoaster in the amusement park. But these millions of tourists are still not enough to put a stop to the town’s decay. So my first intent was to tell a story about the contrast between the amusement industry and the precarious economic and social conditions in Blackpool.”
To document the reality in Blackpool, Miguel chose an abstract over a traditional approach. Instead of capturing the buildings in decay and the damage at eye-level, he captures the city’s empty promises and what it truly delivers, mixing portraits with sea and cityscapes, in a style that is as dramatic as raw:
“Blackpool is a town that stands for the escape from everyday life; in a sense, it tries to create an illusion. So, on the one hand, I wanted to transport this aspect of illusion in my story, to create images that are irritating and not easy to grasp at first sight, like some of the seascapes and cityscapes; on the other hand I wanted to focus on the residents, the people who live or work in this kind of environment.”
“All the portraits were taken at the places where I first met these people, mostly on the street, and after long conversations. The majority of them were very open-hearted and told me their biographies. In the mixture, the seascapes shall serve as triggers for emotions and thoughts and enhance the effect of the portraits.”
In fact, the series reflects Miguel’s path into photography and his background in filmmaking, analysis, and theory.
“Because of their fragmentary character still images are more open to interpretation than moving images. If I look at a good picture it triggers a thought process about the depicted situation and about the circumstances this picture was made in. I start thinking about the before and after of the scene. And in the best case, it triggers reactions on a complex emotional level.”
“I prefer photography that is kind of open and can be interpreted in many ways — photography that challenges the viewer. At an exhibition of this work, someone told me that she reads The Black Pool as a fairy tale. I really like this interpretation.”
Miguel Brusch is a German photographer based in Berlin. In his photography, he mixes elements of the fantastic with reality to produce work that toes the line between the documentary and conceptual styles.