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Dan Harnett

In the delicate interplay between human creativity and the timeless expanse of the sea, my artistic journey unfolds like the rhythmic cadence of breaking waves. I consider myself not just an artist, but a storyteller who weaves tales using the very essence of the sea itself. My artistic horizons extend beyond conventional boundaries. I embrace diverse materials as my media. Time, weather, and natural transformation become my canvas and shipmates in my creations.

My time spent as a seafarer in the merchant navy has endowed my art with a profound depth. Each voyage, each horizon crossed, and each storm weathered has imprinted stories upon my soul. These experiences, rich with the scent of salt and the whispers of distant shores, have become the source of my creative inspiration. The camaraderie of shipmates, the solitude of endless waters, the interaction of light and shadow upon the ocean's expanse – these memories have taken root in my artistic expressions, infusing them with a unique authenticity that only a seafarer's heart can fathom.

The heart of my creative process lies where the canvas meets the shoreline. Here, I orchestrate the reaction between nature and craftsmanship. I arrange, layer, and entwine, allowing each element to contribute its distinct voice to the evolving narrative.

As the sun's warm touch and the salt-laden breeze caress my creations, a profound transformation begins. Time, a silent collaborator, bestows upon my works the gifts of ageing and evolution, akin to the elements themselves. The transient and changing nature of my art becomes a poignant reminder that, much like the sea visage, our lives are subject to an ebb and flow.

I invite you to stand before my organic canvases, to hear the whisper of the sea's timeless song, a symphony that harmonizes with the rhythm of your heart.

An Abstract image inspired by the ocean and created by Dan Harnett,
Ocean Inspired Creativity

An Interview with Dan

Why do you love the sea so much?

My childhood was spent living by the sea and there’s been connections with the sea running back through my family, including my grandfather who used to be a radio officer in the Merchant Navy. I also joined the Merchant Navy as an apprentice and went to sea when I was 16, working my way through the ranks to become a master mariner. As children, we lived in Whitstable and we were members of the sailing club. We spent most of our summers down there so the sea was always at the forefront of my mind. If we weren’t down at the club we used to be down on the beach, close to my parents’ house. The beach was our playground, our back garden.

Did your time in the Merchant Navy help grow your interest in photography?

It did. I travelled the world and visited far-flung places, and an early acquisition was my first 35mm camera and wherever I went I took pictures. I’ve got thousands of transparencies of my time away, in the loft still!

Back then, were you just taking record shots, or trying more creative images as well?

I was taking records of a moment in time.  Looking back, I now see them as views that other people wouldn’t have seen because of how progress and globalization has changed our world.

A distinctive characteristic about your photography is your eye for detail. Is this a recent development?

It was not a photographic style per se back in the Merchant Navy days, but even then you’re instilled with regard to attention to detail for everything, from safety to navigation. You couldn’t take anything for granted.  It was important you knew where you were, from a navigation point of view, so detail has been engrained within me and has now become an important aspect of my photography.

So, how does this aspect of your photography make your work stand out from others

I want to keep my work fresh. When you start going into the detail it’s almost like a totally different world that we don’t see. We live in such a busy world that people take out their iPhones, they take their picture – click, it’s taken. Yet they’re not looking around and taking in the actual environment that they’re in. It’s about slowing down and making the most of that moment. It’s about exploring what’s around you in more detail, so if people take the time to stop and look they can see an image within an image.

Have you had any photographic mishaps on your travels?

I will always travel with two cameras now, instead of one when on assignment.  I learnt my lesson after losing one camera body on a recent shoot in Iceland!

Ah yes, Iceland, famous for its extreme weather. What happened?

The weather was atrocious and I was just being too adventurous and trying to use every moment there taking pictures. We got caught in too many rain showers and black sandstorms on the beach. It was foul weather, absolutely foul, and I had pushed that camera too hard until it couldn’t take it anymore.

What is it about Iceland that makes you want to go back again and again?

The environment and location is always changing. It’s got the Atlantic storms coming across at regular intervals and the temperature extremes from the moderate summers to the freezing winters. It’s an island that you could drive around and the dramatic coastline is constantly changing. You’ve got North Atlantic waves breaking there all the time. There’s the icebergs on the beaches, which are sadly disappearing, and it’s about trying to capture a disappearing world whilst we can. I suppose part of the fascination is knowing that in taking my Glacial portfolio photographs I am confident that they are unique and nobody else can take that same picture because within ten minutes that image is no longer there, or it certainly won’t be there in the morning, so when my photograph goes live it’s a unique representation of what I saw and experienced.

Which other places are special to you?

I like Greenland, but the beauty of Iceland is that you can get quite close to the subject matter, with Greenland less so. Yes, you have the icebergs coming out of Disko Bay, but you’re not crawling around them on the beach or in various off-road places along the Icelandic coast. Greenland is not as accessible, it’s more back into the landscapes and seascapes style photographs, which have their moments but are not where I want to be now with my photography. Future areas to explore would be Norway again, certainly Iceland and Greenland.

You live on the North Kent coast, so what do you like photographing locally?

A recent project involves going into marinas and boatyards, so it’s very much connected with the sea, but the focus is more on the vessels that are associated with the sea. I also enjoy going down to the coast and walking along the intertidal zone, just exploring and seeing what I can find and create on any given day.  I am very fortunate; I am only a few minutes walk from the beach and sea

Creatively, where do you want to take your photographic style in future?

I believe it’s continually evolving.  My style and technique might be repeatable, but in terms of the end result I hope it is harder for someone to replicate what I have created. It’s also about creating some intrigue when people see my work, posing questions: ‘How’s it done?’ ‘How’s it taken?’ ‘Where was it taken?’ ‘What is the story?’ In a sense, I’m creating a sense of mystery around the photograph and its story. Making the viewer question what they are seeing in prints.

Where are you off to next?

That would be telling! At any one time I have a number of locations in mind for future projects. That said, I will continue to seize opportunities when they present themselves to explore the Kent coastline before making an extended journey overseas. The best way to keep up with what I’m doing is to follow me on Instagram. I am continually updating this website with new work for sale and have plans to add new portfolios and collections in the not too distant future.