img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="")

Brooding sky recalls tragedy in Luke Hayes’ coastal photograph

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

There’s a climate emergency resonance to Luke Hayes’ photograph of Redshank, the home on long red legs at Lee-over-Sands where a storm surge killed 37 in 1953

The coastal hamlet of Lee-over-Sands in Essex is, thinks Luke Hayes, one of those extremes on England’s spectrum of remoteness. Sited where the estuarial River Colne gapes at the North Sea’s vastness, its motley rag-tag of houses is approached only via the long single-track Beach Road. Running along the seaward side of its earthen sea wall, it only adds to the sense of isolation. Those piers on which the houses sit might be headstones; near here, one January night in 1953, a storm saw the sea move two miles inland and 37 perished in the surge. If they are graves, Lisa Shell’s ‘Redshank’ is a sepulchre, raised above the plimsoll line of tragedy. Hayes was beguiled by its red-legged strangeness set against the barren flat of the landscape, and hopes to return one night to capture it again – from offshore, at full moon, when the spring tide rises and stirs the sea from its bed. And there, like a Norse longboat, it will float, still anchored; a sentinel to the drowned.