Love Bites: Life along the margins of the Bristol Channel

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Tim Richmond’s latest photobook is a “love letter” to the people and places along a 20-mile stretch of coast in Southwest England

Our relationship with place can be just as complex as our relationship with people. For some, home is a place of comfort and stability; for others, it is shrouded by insecurity and pain. Like people, we can grow apart from places just as quickly as we can grow fond of them. These relationships can be tricky, but a part of us continues to love these places, despite all of the odds.

Tim Richmond’s latest photobook, Love Bites, speaks to this idea, opening with a note: “to a small section of the Bristol Channel – a love letter.” The images that follow are a poetic sweep of portraits and empty landscapes, journeying through food banks, strip clubs, and homeless shelters along a 20 mile stretch of the Bristol Channel. Made over six years, the publication comments on the effects of austerity in the place Richmond called home for 14 years.

River Parrett #9 © Tim Richmond.
Untitled #63 © Tim Richmond.
Bed, Swingers club © Tim Richmond.

But, the project didn’t begin as a political commentary. Initially, Richmond found it difficult to make work about his home. “I was living within a national park [in West Somerset]. It was beautiful, but I didn’t know how to process that into a project,” he explains. “I eventually settled on the coastal part… But I didn’t know what the project was until I was into it by a year or so.” 

The work evolved slowly. Richmond travelled through towns like Minehead, Weston-super-Mare, and Burnham-on-Sea – places with very little photographic documentation. “I was seeking out stories that were intriguing to me, and then letting time distil the process,” he says. 

Although the story developed organically, Richmond made conscious decisions that relate to his cinematic influences. Firstly the colour palette: “I ​​would go out on overcast days, when it was drizzling, just to keep it the same,” he says. And the distance – “a real tight envelope that would limit my wanderings, and make me go back in concentric circles”. 

The landscapes and interior spaces he photographed, mostly shot at dawn, are also devoid of people. Alongside solitary portraits, these empty spaces embody the echoes of loneliness and isolation that penetrates life in these towns. 

Untitled #16, Bristol Channel © Tim Richmond.

Although the work is about a specific place and the people who live there, Richmond resists revealing too much about their individual stories. “Through photographing places or people, it slowly started to reveal that these conditions were fairly universal,” he says. 

Richmond no longer lives in West Somerset. Last year he relocated to Montrose, Colorado, to be closer to his daughter. He looks back on this body of work as one of the most meaningful projects he has made. “I feel more connected to this work because of the relationships that I formed,” he says. Not just with the people, but with the place, and the beauty he was able to capture in its overcast skies, streaks of light at dawn, and its flat, sprawling coastline. 

Love Bites by Tim Richmond is published by Loose Joints.

Marigold Warner

Online Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.