On the cover, embracing Ken Grant’s latest photographic work, are hundreds of seagulls, periodically swooping down on the landfill in Bidston Moss, Northern England, to steal a few scraps of food.
The seagulls prefigure the spirit of the book, which is that of the wasteland, where people flock week after week in search of ‘all sorts of things’, including furniture, clothes, books, electricity.
Grant visits the dump repeatedly over six years, working slowly, allowing himself to understand the context and consolidate his thinking about it. The result is a tender and involved portrait of an area and the people who depend on it, an account of the affinities and resilience that are consolidated in the midst of hardship.
The title of the book borrows the name of the protagonist of V, a novel by Thomas Pynchon, about the life of a former sailor. One can draw parallels between the journey of Pynchon’s character straddling light and dark and the people Grant portrays, who embark on a journey in search of stability at a time when the British economy is constantly in the balance.
In 1995, the landfill was officially closed and turned into a nature reserve. “Although the land has changed,” says Grant, “there remains an inkling of what it was if you look closely. It is used for walking dogs or for teenage escapes, but it is a hillside born on tons of compressed gas and vents. You can almost feel the pressure pushing from the earth itself. I still photograph it. Photographing the pressure, considering the times we are going through, is not a bad thing to try”.
Edition of 500 signed copies, each containing a 6 x 5 cm pigment print