Brighton Rocks and the Cool Cats© Iain McKell
A project about an iconic British coastal town Brighton Hove. Focusing on its local community of infamous counter-culture.
This is not about tourists at the seaside (as many photographers have done before) but rather more about its local community and in particular its unique youth culture. According to a google search, Brighton Hove has more tattoos, vintage boutiques, vegan eaters and record stores per 100,000 city residents not only in the UK but in the world. Its index rated as the hippest town globally beating Portland of Oregon of the USA coming 2nd.
I decided after forty years to move out of London to Brighton/Hove. I realised that Brighton was the place for me. A vibrant iconic city close to London with good transport links and of course the sea. Having grown up in a seaside town Weymouth the sea is in my soul. I wanted to concentrate on my photography fine art practice without the stress of London which is a large and impersonal city. Moved to Brighton where I could work on an intimate project in a smaller city where I could live and work as I did back in the early days aged 18-19 in my home town Weymouth where I began to make photographs as a direct personal experience based on my environment where I lived. That became the book Private Reality - Diary of a Teenage Boy made in 1975-76 and published in 2019.
When visiting to find a new home I had a look around the town and all though over the years having done numerous trips to Brighton I had never realised quite how exciting it was there. With Pop Art culture and counter-culture at its heart, it reminded me of the artist Peter Blakes's work. A creative open-minded community, very vibrant with rugged glamour. Invested it its own individuality that marks it out as different to the London-centric cool and known as ‘Shoreditch by the sea’. The difference between Brighton Hove and Shoreditch youth culture are not followers of fashion trends but creators of their own individuality, creating their own sense of self and being more concentrated on standing out in a smaller city community. Street style from the very young to the older generation having self-expression and dressing loud and proud on a Saturday day or any day to walk through the famous North Lanes and seafront promenade to be seen.
Brighton Hove In the history of British subculture and the 1930s Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock to the Mods and Rockers road trips in the 1960s to do battle on the seafront. Brighton carved out a reputation for creativity, freedom rock'n'roll and self-expression with its iconic seaside pear and Pavilion. The only Green Party elected in the UK, a large LGBTQ+ community, nudest beach, Universities, music and art scenes making creativity permeates the city.
Where the urban and nature blend together creating a hedonistic mix of self-expression and anything goes. Fresh air and the sound of seagulls, and waves crashing on the shore are soothing alongside the energy of the city buzz.
Life is easy and breezy, it’s a utopia for me. A place to work and play, as to me they are both the same thing.
click to view the complete set of images in the archive