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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Another Place by Antony Gormley

Another Place by Antony Gormley

Year: 2012, Month: March

United Kingdom > England > Crosby

This image shows the head and shoulders of one of the one hundred life-sized figures that are spread out along three kilometres of Crosby beach near Liverpool, an art installation entitled 'Another Place' by 'Angel of the North' artist Antony Gormley. The sculptures, secured on the beach by three-metre-high foundation piles, are solid cast-iron, made from moulds of the artist's own body. A visitor's experience of the work will depend on the state of the tide, the weather conditions and the time of day they are visiting, with all the figures becoming completely submerged at particularly high tides.

Another Place harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man's relationship with nature. Antony Gormley says: "The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements, and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth's substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body, no hero, no ideal, just the industrially-reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet."

The work was previously installed at Cuxhaven in Germany, Stavanger in Norway, and De Panne in Belgium. It was due to move to another site in November 2006, but the South Sefton Development Trust decided to purchase the work and let it remain on Crosby beach for all time.

The work is notoriously difficult to photograph as the life-sized figures are all spread out from one another at a distance of some 30 metres, and have little to augment with either foreground: some occasional passing ships, or background: the grass-topped sand dunes of this section of Irish Sea coast. Most photographers select one of the figures and contrast it with a particularly impressive sunrise or sunset sky. For me, though, the fascination was in the decay of the cast-iron statues, so I chose to photograph just the head, in closeup. The flakes of rust and the closed eyes remind me of some hideous disease - maybe leprosy - that the figure has to live through, yet despite his disfigurement, he holds his head up straight and high, facing the world with a disregard for the opinions of others.

With the corrosive nature of the salt air, the winds and the driven sand, the figures will indeed diminish much faster in this location than in most. It will be interesting to return in some years time to see what remains of the figures, and guess whether much will remain of their facial features. No doubt they will still be recogniseable, though: the human brain is particularly good at identifying facial features at the most basic of levels. I am sure that we are programmed to do so from a very early age.

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