Well-known viewpoints and originality – mutually exclusive?

Lately, I have been grappling with the question of what exactly is meant by producing “original” work, specifically in the context of making photographs of well-known/famous viewpoints, those that have been visited and photographed by many photographers in years gone by. I almost felt bad visiting the Seven Sisters Country Park last week. The view towards the Seven Sisters, with the coastguard cottages in the foreground, has been widely documented in all kinds of photographs, but I have never been there before, which is why I felt I needed to see it for myself.

 I set out with the aim to seek an alternative viewpoint and trudged all the way to the beach on the eastern side of the river Cuckmere, close to the “Sisters”, with the cottages just across the river on the other side. But as soon as I had arrived at the beach, the heavens opened. The image below was all I could muster in the few seconds before it poured down.

Cuckmere River

 Initially undeterred, I tried to shelter from the rain behind some concrete slab and held out for a while, but eventually my hopes of this just being a short sharp shower were washed away together with my resolve to sit it out. Needless to say that when I reached the car park after another half-hour walk in the rain, the sun came out!

 To cut a long story short, I ended up exactly where everyone else’s tripods left their marks – just above the coastguard cottages. Weather-wise, the afternoon turned out quite lively, with sunshine and showers in quick succession. This produced some interesting skies, and I ended up really happy when I managed to make some images with clouds mirroring the shapes of the cliffs below.

Seven Sisters

 I believe that making an image that is true to ourselves does not mean we have to avoid locations simply because others have been to them before. If we seek out what we feel is special about a particular place, if we try to convey what we feel while being there, we may well be successful in producing an image that can be called original.