During the summer of 1990, Andy Hughes was studying for his Masters in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London. As part of an exchange program, Hughes and two other students were offered the opportunity to study at ARCO in Lisbon for a few months. Hughes, aware of the good waves located a few miles south of the city, made daily trips by bus to the coastal town of Costa De Caparica to capture images of surfers, the surf, and the coastline. The images presented here were taken during this period.


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

Stretching away to the south of the Tejo River is a 30 km strip of coast that is the most consistent zone for Lisbon’s surfers. The northern section of this coast is built up and a number of jetties provide variety and stability to the sand bars. 


Location: Supertubos | Media: C-Type Print from Colour Negative Film 16 x 20 inches

Supertubos (Portuguese for Supertubes) is a wave and beach located in Peniche, Portugal. The break offers world-class surfing conditions with its curvy waves and hollow powerful tubes.


From the series: The Surfers, 1990. Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal | Media: C-Type Print from Colour Negative Film 16 x 20 inches


Location: Croyde, North Devon, England | Media: C-Type Print from Colour Negative Film 16 x 20 inches

Seaweed and Denim Jeans

Location: St Ouen's, Jersey, 1992 | Media: C-Type Print from Colour Negative Film 16 x 20 inches

In 1989, while capturing images of his surfing friends at the beach, Andy Hughes took his first photograph of a bright orange plastic detergent bottle resting on the shore. As he continued his photography work through the 1990s, these two subjects became interwoven. Although much of this work has yet to be seen by the public, Hughes is currently working on publishing a book that showcases this and other photographs he has taken over the past 30 years.

Today, plastic waste is a topic of global concern, with various countries and industries scrambling to find solutions to address one of the world's most harmful pollutants. Hughes, with a sense of foresight, recognized the materiality and potential destructive nature of plastic waste long before it became a mainstream issue.


Washed up rat and Plastiglomerate. Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal 1990 | Media: C-Type Print 16 x 20 Inches

In 2016, while reading Jane Bennet's "Vibrant Matter," Andy Hughes came across a chapter titled "Thing-Power 1: Debris" on page four. As he read the words, he realised the connection and synergy between the chapter and an image he had captured 30 years earlier on a beach in Portugal. The photograph included plastic nurdles and Plastiglomerate, which have been washing up on beaches since the 1970s. The image takes on greater significance as a representation of how artists and their remarkable powers of observation are now more crucial than ever before, as it demonstrates prescience in recognising the impact of plastic pollution.

'On a sunny Tuesday morning on 4 June in the grate over the storm drain to the Chesapeake Bay in front of Sam’s Bagels on Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore, there was: one large men’s black plastic work glove, one dense mat of oak pollen, one unblemished dead rat, one white plastic bottle cap, one smooth stick of wood. Glove, pollen, rat, cap, stick. As I encountered these items, they shimmied back and forth between debris and thing… I was repelled by the dead (or was it merely sleeping?) rat and dismayed by the litter, but I also felt something else: a nameless awareness of the impossible singularity of that rat, that configuration of pollen, that otherwise utterly banal, mass-produced plastic water-bottle cap'.

Bennett. J. (2010) Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

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