West Pier at sunset

Photographers on Brighton beach

It's a serious business, you know

The West Pier of Brighton is possibly the city’s most iconic structure. Opened on the 6th October 1866, by the outbreak of the Second World War its fortunes were in decline, and in 1975 it was declared unsafe and finally closed to the public. Then, in 2003 the pier was burnt out by arsonists and today all that remains is the hulking skeleton of the Pavilion structure.

To my mind, it seems very strange that the fire should have occurred so recently. Something about the ruined structure seems timeless and is eerily captivating. Clearly I am not alone. Sitting on Brighton beach on Sunday enjoying what I thought could be the last gloriously sunny day of the year (though I hope not!) I heard one DSLR wielding observer comment to another that West Pier is the city’s most photographed structure, a fact which the West Pier website confirms.

It’s not hard to see why: at sunrise the details and colours of the pier stand out vivid and really pretty beautiful. It was not until sunset, however, when the sky was beginning to get exciting and the sun was setting almost right behind the pier that fact was confirmed. The photographers all began to come out, and I found myself suddenly surrounded – so I quickly whipped out my own not-so-snazzy phone and got proof myself.


West Pier at sunset

One photographer capturing the dramatic sunset. There were lots more, but you'll have to take my word for it

One thing that’s clear is that strong lighting conditions are Not Easy to shoot in (especially on a dodgy camera phone). Luckily there are books available to help out everyone from the very most amateur to the most professional and prepared – and where better to get them from than the very best, Ilex Photo!

Final thoughts:
-       There must have been hundreds of photographers taking lovely sunset photos, but what about sunrise? In winter sunrise comes much later so it’s worth getting up a little early for an entirely different effect (if the whether is good, of course…).
-       The West Pier is pretty beloved of photographers. How will plans for development affect this?
-       What makes West Pier more iconic than, say, the grand and slightly bizarre Pavilion? What’s your iconic structure?


Thanks to the West Pier Trust for all the history, facts, and stuff!


Posted by

Rachel Silverlight

Assistant Editor at Ilex Photo, Rachel's made just about every mistake it's possible to make with a camera from lens caps left on to films not loaded. All in all, better at looking at photos than taking them.

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