Once school starts. Photographs from the campsite.

Like many English people I have memories of school holidays spent in caravan sites. As we were in the north of England I guess the weather must often have been cold and probably raining, but I don’t really remember that. I do remember playing on the rough sandy beaches, collecting fresh mussels near Waren Mill in Northumberland, now called Waren Caravan and Camping Park, until one year the sea became so polluted that we were no longer allowed to eat the mussels for fear of poisoning ourselves. It must have been cold on those beaches, because Northumberland beaches are always cold! Think of the classic pictures of the English at the seaside, wrapped up in coats and scarves – that was Bamburgh and Seahouses in the 1960s. The other thing I remember is that we seem to have enjoyed ourselves, the whole family away for a couple of weeks of freedom.

Postcard from England – a 1960s caravan park

Fast forward over 50 years. The north of England has become Southern Ontario, caravans are now called trailers or RVs, the weather is (mostly) better in the summer. This year, the year of the pandemic, the campgrounds which usually open in mid-May were shuttered until July. The shortened season will finish in mid-October, but already some of the grounds are almost silent during the week. The children have gone back to school, whether physically or online, and while there are still trailers parked many of them are empty, waiting for the next weekend when the visitors will come back, kids will be cycling on the pathways, dogs will be barking at strangers. But a quiet campground is a strange place.

These pictures were taken the week after Labour Day here in Ontario. For about the only time this summer the weather was gloomy and wet, lending the quiet camp even more of an air of damp. But in between the old and fading trailers, alongside the camp shop and pool, now closed because of the restrictions imposed by the fight against Covid-19, look closely and you’ll find sites that have been lovingly tended, decorated with plants, plastic animals, signs and lawns. While there are sites that look neglected, abandoned, there are places that people will come back to year after year, spending summers in the open air away from the suburbs or towns where they live. Maybe some of these people have similar sites in the US where they see out the cold Canadian winters, coming back to Ontario for our summer. There are stories behind each of these trailers, loved or neglected.

These images were taken on the Fuji X-T3 and then edited using a recipe (adapted) from the Fuji X Weekly blog to approximate the old Kodacolor II formulation for 126 cameras. It seemed appropriate for the subject. I thought about using a black and white simulation but that seemed to make the topic overly negative and that’s not what I wanted to achieve. Kodacolor II is a throwback to the days when you had an Instamatic or a cartridge camera and you got your holiday snaps processed at the local Boots or your local 1 Hour photo lab. The Fuji simulations are so good and so versatile that there’s almost too much choice, so in the end I selected the style that I thought would work with the overall tone. Colourful enough to hint at the vibrancy of the reds and greens, but with enough desaturation that the images complement the subject matter. If you have a different opinion or would have used a different film type, feel free to leave your comments below.

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