In the summer of 1990 Hughes was a Masters Photography student at the Royal College of Art, London. The department began an exchange programe to ARCO in Lisbon, he and two other students were the first to be offered the opportunity to study there for a few months. Hughes knew that a few miles south of the city, the coast was blessed with good waves, each day he traveled by bus to the coastal town of Costa De Caparica to photograph surfers, the surf and the coastline. These image are selected from 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
Location: St Ouen's, Jersey, 1992 | Media: C-Type Print from Colour Negative Film 16 x 20 inches
Andy Hughes’ first photographed a bright orange plastic detergent bottle resting on a beach in 1989. At the same time had been creating images of his surfing buddies at the beach - naturally these two subjects became intertwined. Throught the 1990's Hughes brought these two subjects together. Much of this work has not been seen, Hughes is working towards publish a book of this and other work created during a 30 year period.
Plastic waste is now one of the most talked about subjects across the globe, as various counties and industries twist and turn to find solution to one of the worlds most pernicious pollutants. Hughes in a premonitory manner noted its materiality and its potential destructive nature.
Washed up rat and Plastiglomerate. Location: Costa De Caparica, Portugal 1990 | Media: C-Type Print 16 x 20 Inches
In 2016 Hughes read Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennet and on page four he read the chapter 'Thing-Power 1: Debris'. Imagine the symmetry when he recognised the connectivity and synergy between the expression in the words below and the memory of this image made 30 years earlier on a beach in Portugal. The image also contains within Plastic Nurdles and Plastiglomerate. The first scientific reports of nurdles washing up on beaches were published in the 1970s. This image takes on further significance not as a record but rather its serves to indicate how artists and their extraordinary powers of observation is now more important than ever before - the prescience is present in this image.
'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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