roger coulam

Waterborne (Encourage the Wound to Bleed)

My local walk along the coastline of the City of Sunderland takes in a third of a mile of City Beach and Whitburn South Beach. The latter has a Blue Flag award, which is considered the gold standard for UK beaches.
The northern end of my route is marked by two huge waste water drains that in times of heavy rain empty both groundwater and sewage onto the beach. The beaches are then briefly bisected by Roker Pier, before at their southern end City Beach terminates as the River Wear flows into the ocean.

The Wear rises in the Pennine Hills and moves eastwards through County Durham, taking in the upland grouse moors of Weardale and the lead and coal mining areas that once defined the region. It flows through several large towns and the City of Durham before reaching the ocean in Sunderland.

Because of these beaches proximity to both the urban area and the river I was interested to see what cultural items I might find. Also this area is frequently cleaned by a tractor pulling a huge surf rake to remove debris, litter and rocks, which leaves it far from natural.

Between November 2018 and March 2019 I made 13 trips to the beaches with a small plastic carrier bag limiting how much I could collect. I began to notice that many of the objects carried traces of sewage or seemed to have been "flushed".

In March whilst sorting one bag of objects I received a needle-stick injury from a used hypodermic needle found on Whitburn South Beach. Immediately I telephoned my local Doctors Surgery for advice and they told me to encourage the wound to bleed and go to hospital. It then took a 6 month wait and a series of blood tests and vaccinations to ensure that I had not contracted AIDS, Hepatitis B or C.

This series of 15 photomontages are made with virtually all of the 3500 objects collected, and I only excluded plastic cotton buds, foam ear-plugs and tampon applicators which were overwhelming the works.