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Whilst studying fine art at Cardiff University in the late 1980's Andy Hughes joined the college surf club. A small group of art student surfers would venture towards Porthcawl and beyond looking for surf spots. It was whilst surfing that he noticed all kinds of floating debris including plastic, oil drums, condoms and panty liners washing up on the shoreline. Hughes began making photographs of these items, at the same time he began producing a series of portraits of surfers which became connected, the two parallel subjects becoming interrelated and interconnected.

Using film and his 6x9 Fuji rangefinder camera he began his thirty-year journey responding to the interactions of water, waves and coastal inhabitants both organic and inorganic. The pages below are selected from his archive of work between 1989 - 1999.

Plastic Bread Bag Rest Bay Wales

Location: Rest Bay, Porthcawl 1989.  Media: C-Type print, 16 x 20 Inches | POA

Rest Bay is located on the west side of Porthcawl, it is one of the popular and consistent beaches close to Cardiff for surfing. Most of the surf on this sandy beach comes from the groundswell, the best swell angle is from the south-west, and the breaks come from left to right. Cleaner wave conditions are when the wind is from the east. 

Oil Drum at Sker Bay Wales

Location: Sker Bay, Porthcawl 1989.  Media: C-Type print, 16 x 20 Inches | POA

Sker Beach is the most westerly of Porthcawl's beaches and is only accessible by walking from Rest Bay or the Kenfig National Nature Reserve. A few miles away is the industrial town of Port Talbot in the county borough of Neath, Wales. It is located seven miles to the east of Swansea across the Swansea Bay. Port Talbot Steelworks can be seen from Sker. During many surf visits to this beach, Hughes and his surfing buddies would walk across the dunes towards to the ocean, the sea was very polluted and often discoloured, human waste and all manner of floating debris drifted by the surfers in the line-up.

Condom Washed ashore in 1991 Porthcawl

Location: Barry Island, Wales., 1989.  Media: C-Type Light Jet Print 16 x 20 Inches |POA

Condoms often circulated in the waters where Hughes surfed. It was in May 1990 that the pressure group Surfers Against Sewage was formed in the small coastal town of Porthtowan. One year later Hughes joined the group and since then he has been associated with various aspects of their campaign work.

Panty LIners Waste Wales

Location: Rest Bay, Wales, 1989. Media: C-Type Light Jet Print 16 x 20 Inches | POA

Panty Liner settled on coal washed beach.

Surfer in Portugal

From the series: The Surfers, 1990.

Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal | Media: C-Type Print from Colour Negative Film 16 x 20 inches

South of the river Tejo in Portugal is a 30 km strip of coast, it is one of the most consistent zones for Lisbon’s surfers. The northern section of this coast is built up and several jetties provide variety and stability to the sand bars which in turn provide beach break waves and many left and right-handed point breaks. In 1990 Hughes was offered a two-month student placement at ARCO (Centro De Arte & Comunicao Visual) in Lisbon, Portugal. It was whilst here that Hughes focused his attention upon surfers and the relationships between coastal environments and wider environmental concerns.

ARCO https://arco.pt/site/pt/quem-somos/a-instituicao

Art work Contact Sheets by Andy Hughes

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal. Media: Contact Print

Mobirise

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal | Media: Contact Print

The Surfers

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Cascias, Lisbon coast | Media: C-Type 16 x 20 Inches 

Andy Hughes is inspired by coastscapes, surfers, waste and the nature of those spaces close to the sea. Using juxtaposition and embodiment, Hughes work presents the interrelations between human subjects and environmental connections across littoral spaces. Previously unpublished, the 'Surfers' focusses on friends and strangers, depicting them at surf spots in Wales, Cornwall and Portugal.

Plastic Waste in Portugal

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal | Media: Contact Print

Younf surfer boy in Portugal

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Cascias, Lisbon coast | Media: C-Type 16 x 20 Inches 

Surfer in Portugal

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Cascias, Lisbon coast | Media: C-Type 16 x 20 Inches 

Surfer in Portugal

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Cascias, Lisbon coast | Media: C-Type 16 x 20 Inches 

Surfers in Portugal

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Costa De Caparica, Lisbon coast 1990 | Media: C-Type 16 x 20 Inches 

Surfer in Penich Portugal

From the series The Surfers, 1990. Location: Peniche, near Super Tubes | Media: C-Type 16 x 20 Inches