The Submerged

Michelle Sank

Michelle Sank’s work reflects her interest in the human condition, encompassing issues around social and cultural diversity. The Submerged is about the people and places in mid wales; a portrait of the coastal and hilly areas of Aberystwyth, which came about “through an intense exploration of Aberystwyth and it’s surrounds” says Sank.


“The Submerged is named after an ancient forest that appears at low tide on the beach in Borth, and it became a metaphor for those moments that I captured that felt as if they were popping up out of the environment and society.” The interplay of portrait and background creates a sociological landscape: “symbolic for me in relation to the wonderment of the diversity and a sense of the exotic that appeared against the grittiness of the landscape. I was really drawn to the sense of space, the geology, the skies and light and sometimes a sense of isolation that existed in the areas I explored.”

The work was completed during a residency at Aberystwyth Arts Centre and published in book form by Schilt.  In the accompanying essay “Potent Portraits” Liz Wells describes her work as “Ordinary yet compulsive”.  It is this combination that drew me to Sank’s work and I was intrigued as to how she achieves a sense of dignity and intimacy within a fleeting and isolated moment.

“All the subjects photographed in this work were met on the street. I have a genuine excitement when I see something special in that person, at a particular time, in a particular space with the right combination for me of light and colour. I feel that this is conveyed to the person in that moment – hence the sense of intimacy. Sometimes it is a fleeting connection, other occasions I will spend time speaking to them. The best moments always for me are those where amazing things come to one out of the ordinary that have a particular significance for me. I do undertake research before I start a project of this kind but through persistent hunting I find the places, people, events etc that are of interest to me and indicative of the place”
Sank has just completed a 6 month residency in Jersey, Channel Islands where she made a document of contemporary island society that will form part of the photographic archive at the Societe Jersiase. A book of this work “Insula” is due to be published in 2014.”
You can see more of Sank’s work here:

Abbie Trayler-Smith