This week Russell Squires opens his exhibition Landings at the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson. Squires’s series of landscapes document the contemporary Normandy beaches that have become infamous in military history, as the place where there largest armada ever assembled embarked upon the liberation of France in 1944. The show of course co-incides with the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. While it may seem like his work would be more appropriately installed on the other side of the English channel, the south coast of England itself played an enormous part in the preparations for the invasion. Additionally, Fort Nelson is part of a series of defensive lines that extend well before the twentieth century. The theme of defence, and of its undermining is pertinent here as well.
Squires’s photographs however resist explicitly depicting the marks of the conflict that are still present on the beaches today, like for instance the work of Marc Wilson. We see instead a familiar landscape, not from their Hollywood representations or the shaky pictures taken by Robert Capa, but something more domestic (for a British viewer at least!); memories of family beach excursions on overcast, gusty days… dune jumping perhaps? Instead we overlay memories on the more mundane vernacular structures. The idea of ‘landing’ is approached thoughtfully, and we confront his pictures both from looking out to sea and from the perspective of ‘coming up’ onto the beaches. The task of making it a few hundred yards from the water’s edge to the defensive lines that was a matter of life or death for so many is today facilitated by paths and ramps – even tractors are on hand to aid the landing of craft.
Landings is on show until October 1st. For more information see: