Lisa Woollett grew up by the sea on the Isle of Sheppey. After a degree in Psychology she studied Documentary Photography and from 1993 worked as a photographer. She lives in Cornwall and current work sells through galleries and exhibitions. Her first book, Sea and Shore Cornwall: common and curious findings, was described by BBC Coast’s Nick Crane as ‘wonderful… a cabinet of curiosities’ and won a Holyer an Gof Publishers’ Award 2014.
This exhibition celebrates the launch of her second book: Sea Journal. Part of the book is set in Lyme Regis, where Lisa went fossiling along the beaches, and looking at some of the natural history, geology and mythology of the local stretch of the Devon-Dorset coast.
This beautiful and unusual book brings together a year’s wanderings along Britain’s shores with stories of their natural history, geology and evolution — from ancient myth to current science — and the author’s striking contemporary photography.
Lisa Woollett is from a long line of scavengers — her grandfather was from a South London family in the ‘scavenging professions’, and Lisa grew up on cliffs on the Isle of Sheppey, spending much of her childhood collecting and fossicking along the shore. She would look for sharks’ teeth, mermaid’s purses, fossils, old bottles… One of her more memorable finds was a dead, washed-up squid that squirted black ink when squeezed. These childhood memories, woven through her new book, Sea Journal, are vividly brought to life by Lisa’s evocative descriptions, luminous photographs and intricate drawings.
Whether paddling through the shallows or crouching on a cliff in a hailstorm, we are taken on a journey of compelling diversions. Against a backdrop of the shifting seasons, weather and tides, we follow the trails of washed-up cuttlebones and by-the-wind sailors, and meet wind-sellers, Selkies and 19th century fossil hunters. Amongst portraits of seaweed and jellyfish, of gulls wheeling through spume, are stories of the evolution of whales and Lego dragons lost at sea. Drawings of plankton and shells fill the margins, as we see how a handful of sand or whorl of a fossil nautilus can hold hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s history.
As the threads draw together there is the sense that any walk on the beach stretches both back into the deep past and ahead into the uncertain future of our oceans. Throughout, there is an awareness of the stark nature of the threats our oceans face, and of our part in this. The book is full of hope, however, that the best way to inspire us to take greater care of these wild, magnificent places is through wonder and a love of the natural world. Sea Journal will inspire readers to go out and explore for themselves, reminded of the pleasures of discovery, and of looking and listening more closely.
This will be in the community room above the Courtyard exhibition, at 3pm on Saturday 30th April.
Lisa’s illustrated talk will tell the story of making the books.
www.zartbooks.co.uk has extracts from both books – just to whet your appetite for the real thing!