Photographer Nick Smith has spent the past three decades travelling with his camera to more than 100 countries. He has crossed the Namib Desert, photographed elephants in the Okavango Delta, penguins in Antarctica and polar bears at the North Pole. Without a doubt, one of the most bizarre ventures of his career was a 75-day, 1,500-mile voyage that took him no more than five-miles from his home in Swansea. This was the limit the Welsh authorities allowed people to travel under the coronavirus lockdown.
The lighthouse provided a landmark, a goal and a symbol of the ‘mini-expedition’ project. ‘It was also really interesting,’ says Smith. ‘In a way, it was better than travelling to far-flung places. Rather than being on the move all the time, enforced restrictions on distance meant I got to know the territory in microscopic detail. I could wait for the best conditions to photograph in and could also make the most of the emptiness of the landscape.’
Each morning’s expedition saw Nick pedalling off to Mumbles Lighthouse, the octagonal tower erected in 1794 to guide vessels along the coast and into Swansea Bay. These daily travels by bicycle culminated in To the Lighthouse, a fine art photography project whose thirty-one images were shot with a smartphone. As such, they have a completely different feel to his usual work, although the images are of a high standard of quality, of composition, colour and light.
Regarding the use of a phone camera: ‘I didn’t want to draw attention to myself or look opportunistic by using flashy professional gear at a time when people were genuinely frightened for their health and financial future,’ he says. An eye-catching feature of the book is the absence of people in the photos, reflecting the emptiness of the first two months of lockdown. The end product is an impressive and important collection.