I meet up with Felicity in her studio in Chelsea, New York. She talks about dismay of daily news of Trump reversing previous pro-ecological measures. She is keen for us to meet up with people in the Montauk area who are involved at a local level in environmental concerns. We have managed to contact a few people before our visit and hopefully this will lead to further discussion.

After a day in New York trying to get over jet lag, we drive out to Noyak, in Suffolk County, where we will be based for the next week. We are not alone escaping the summer heat of the city. The Hamptons have long been a get-away for New Yorkers and has a predominantly seasonal economy.

We head east out of New York on the Northern State Parkway. The Parkway’s symbol is Montauk Point Lighthouse.

Suffolk County is a couple of hours drive (traffic permitting) from New York City, a similar distance that coastal Suffolk lies from London in the UK. Similar, inflationary pressures in the local economy are evident here. Second home ownership and the ubiquitous modernist domestic dwelling developments can be seen here, but on a much larger scale.

The main areas of coast that have not been developed in the Hamptons are privately owned reserves, including large areas of managed land owned and run by The Nature Conservancy. Some areas are open to the public with marked trails and public parking. Whilst other parts of the coast are inaccessible, either due to nature conservancy, or as they are owned by private landowners for their exclusive use.


I’m on my way to the USA (thank you a-n Artist Bursary!) and this is the view out of the window twenty minutes before I land.

It’s Montauk Point, the most easterly point of Long Island, and where Felicity and my research will be focused over the next week for the second half of our project. It seems a good omen that this is the first glance I get of it.


Felicity and I want to keep this project fairly open at the moment so that we can respond to both the coastal sites in Suffolk UK and USA and see what material emerges. It is helpful to be working collaboratively as we reassure each other that it is still too early in the project to set the outcomes, they will emerge more clearly as it progresses. At the moment, we have only undertaken research in one site. The other half of the project awaits and I can’t wait to see what lies on the other side of the Atlantic.



Felicity and I review our images, film and field notes from the past week. We have a lot of overlap; I think we tend to be drawn to the same visual imagery even without discussion.

So we set about sifting through the material to collate footage from the Orfordness Lighthouse visit. The Aldeburgh Lookout (where we met a year ago) has a callout for short films for Alive in the Universe a collection of one-minute artist films that will be shown over the summer at the Lookout and next year in Venice during the Venice Bienniale.

We decide to use the restriction of one minute to focus our minds. We make several versions, returning to the circling movement of climbing the stairs and capturing the shifting light patterns in and outside the building. The final version is To the High Light




The next day, we take another boat across to the Ness, this time with Orfordness Lighthouse Trust to visit the Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse was decommissioned in 2013 by Trinity House. Although the building is Grade II listed, the remoteness of location, unstable ground and encroaching sea made a perfect storm in which the  viable options to save it were, and are, very limited. According to the Lighthouse Trust, the National Trust (who own the surrounding Nature Reserve) were offered the building for nothing by Trinity House, but they declined. Their approach was one of ‘controlled ruination’ and that visitors would see the structure from the outside only.

The Orfordness Lighthouse Trust was formed by members of the community who took over the building in order to allow visits inside the building for as long as it is safe to do so, and to look at alternative ways to save parts of the Lighthouse.

The erosion is strikingly evident as the sea approaches the base of the lighthouse. Recent defences made of shingle encased in geo textile have temporarily prevented the low cliff from being undermined, but Chris and Lydia, our guides from the Trust, say that the building may succumb to the sea in the next three years.

It is with this knowledge that I feel an urgency of our visit, to photograph and perhaps find a way to document this majestic building before it is claimed by the sea.

We are taken inside and up the 100 steps to the lantern at the top. It is surprisingly spacious inside with an elegant sweep of stone stairs. The quality of light in the staircase area is incredible, with dancing shadows and light emanating from the small windows as we ascend. On two of the windows there is original port (red) and starboard (green) glass that filter the light on the curved stair walls.

When we reach the lantern at the top the dazzling light, even on the grey day, is striking. The ridges of shingle are clearly seen from this birds-eye vantage point and the line of the coast from the lighthouse at Southwold in the north, to Harwich in the south. These lights are safe and have been increased in power since the switching off of this one.

Felicity and I shoot some digital film and stills walking up and down the spiral stairs, inside and out. We are both drawn to the painterly qualities of the light, but the movement and subtle of it seems to be best captured in film.

I leave with a sense of sadness, with the knowledge that the life of this building is short. However, it also starts me thinking about ideas for further projects that might be able contribute to celebrating this unique building and site.