Finding Fay Godwin

Since starting this course I have had several people recommend Fay Godwin to me in relation to the images I have been taking and the element of activism in the messages they convey for clearing our oceans and beaches of debris. Fay (1931-2005) famously took portraits of famous authors and landscapes becoming a significant figure in the Right to Roam movement. Thus land and seascapes and contributing to raising awareness and encouraging action to redress problems are what we have in common.

I wanted to know more and after searching the internet for publications settled on The Edge of the Land published in 1995. Immediately I could see some major differences, her images being in black and white and mine in colour, but also many similarities. Her Beadnell Bay, Northumberland images and my Beautiful Beach shared a lower third of beach, upper third of sky and midline of horizontal sea. I have compared and contrasted her Zig-zag groynes, Pett Level, East Sussex with my wooden pillars on Wembury beach in my oral presentation and have noted her plastic bottle on Camber Sands, Kent as demonstrating plastics having been a problem for many years.

Putting my preference for colour aside I have been looking more closely at Fay Godwin’s compositions and use of light. A few images appear to adhere to the rule of thirds (such as the beach and sea on the horizon images). However in the main she uses leading lines to take you into and through her images (e.g. Lewis, Outer Hebrides; Umbrellas, Dungeness, Kent). I do not know enough about the equipment and exposure settings she used but can see that she has achieved a good balance of light and dark in many images. There is still visible detail in the sky and the land. This is something I need to work on and perhaps in theory should be finding this easier with a DSLR. It it is all to do with weather conditions and time of day as well as filters and exposure times and having these all come together in the right location at the right time to get the right shot is my challenge, and will need to be planned for.


Godwin, Fay. 1995. The Edge of the Land. London: Jonathan Cape, Random House.


Beadnell Bay, Northumberland Fay Godwin 1995







Beautiful Beach Sarah Newton 2017


Post script: How helpful it is to share images with others. Since publishing this post my omission in not comparing my portrait view with Fay Godwin’s landscape presentation of beaches in these image has been pointed out. Overlooking the obvious is something I must try to avoid!.

It does raise an important point for me in so far as images should  give an indication of the photographer’s viewpoint and intentions to convey some meaning or story and this may mean that at times these are at odds with the viewers expectations and prior experiences and preferences. For example, I was attracted to the lines and patterns in the sand that lead to the sea and wanted to portray these. I cannot say what Fay Godwin’s intentions were but if I may suggest an interpretation, her images of Beadnell Bay may have been taken with the intention of depicting the vast breadth and depth of the vista before her rather than the more immediate details of the surroundings. Something to bear in mind on my  future seascape adventures.

One Reply to “Finding Fay Godwin”

  1. Just comparing hers and yours beach shots at the bottom. You haven’t mentioned format – hers are landscape while yours appear portrait. There is an expansive feel to Godwin’s which you might like to explore… something I like in a seascape, but perhaps you have better ideas…


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