Portsmouth Recce

Seen from the eyes of a polish guy…

I have been asked to create a limited edition T-Shirt and A2 print for a small exhibition at the “Strong Island” shop in Portsmouth. The exhibition would take place on the 12th of November and the money risen from the T-shirt & print sells would go straight to a local charity. The style for the designs should be unique & personal with a connection to Portsmouth’s unique history. What the client doesn’t want, is an old-fashioned stereotypical “Portsmouth” seen by the tourists. Therefore to have a better understanding of what Portsmouth really is, I made a trip from Chichester to Portsmouth to take a few photo shoots.

When I arrived I was aiming my camera at less attractive scenarios of the city. The idea behind this photo shoot was simple- Discover the real Portsmouth. It was quite challenging to move my camera from the beautiful sight of the port to old blockhouses or homeless people. My intention was to understand a bit better what this city really is. Imperfection in art is sometimes more powerful than beauty itself. From the start of this project, I was avoiding “typical” tourist paths. I couldn’t bare the idea to make a T-shirt that will be a stereotype or even a mockery of the real deal. I was looking for something interesting that might be one of Portsmouth’s trademarks. There are many reasons why Portsmouth looks the way is looks today. During the second world war, the city got bombed by the German Luftwaffe. Many destroyed buildings had to be replaced after the war and with a new era new solutions had to be made for the needs of the public. Structures such as the Tricorn Shopping centre have been built all around the city. The raw unpainted concrete monstrosities became a part of Portsmouth’s history now.

Posters like this can be seen all around the city. Its another face of Portsmouth that can’t be ignored. Some people like it some people don’t. I think it suits very well a city that went through hell.

Portsmouth after the Blitz. Between 1940–1944 Portsmouth suffered about 67 air raids from the German Luftwaffe. 930 people have been killed during these periods.

The number of homeless people on the streets increase each year in Portsmouth . It may not be a beautiful sight, but this is a part of Portsmouth too. There are many organisations and charities through the city that help these people. I really recommend this blog that investigated the real day-to-day issues with homeless people in Portsmouth. Unfortunately its not updated anymore since 2012, but it still gives a good insight of the situation there.

Strong Island’s brand Identity has a very characteristic style. It uses a lot of symbolism surrounding the British navy and the sea. Therefore, it is no wonder that most of the T-shirts contain such elements like anchors, ropes, seagulls, ships and even canons. There is also a connection to the music & skate scene. Strong Island is constantly supporting many events and occasions. One thing that makes Strong Island’s franchise so popular is the quality and good taste. I wouldn’t say that you can find this kind of T-shirts in a H&M shop. Strong Island makes a very good use of the style but makes it in a way elite. Since SI is very open minded to the skate scene, I was more than happy to aim with my designs in this direction.


  1. Peter James Field. The Ugliest Building in Britain, 13 April 2011 http://peterjamesfield.blogspot.co.uk/