Wednesday, August 24, 2011


If the street is where both the fine art and amateur photographer go to strengthen their capacity to see with the camera and create an evocative tableau of sights, shadows, city life and movement, then the beach is where the snapshooter goes to have fun with the camera and relax.  There can be a self-conscious artful “looking” found in street photography which isn’t present in snapshots taken on the beach.  The images presented here evoke summer as no other photo subject can.  They speak to the strong connection between leisure activity and snapshot photography.  When people are half naked, something happens to them in front of the camera--they loosen up, laugh, sleep, relax, look sexy, or appear ridiculous.  They fall in love, strike strange poses, wear funny sunglasses, get too much sun, and generally revel in their new found freedom from work and the cold of winter. These photos speak to all of that and more, causing us to smile and remember our own carefree summer days hanging out with friends, family and the ubiquitous camera which captured all of it.

I love having Snapshot People share their photos here.   Some collectors ask to be included and some I ask to contribute.  I try to get about ten images each time.  For October, I'll be asking you to share one of your favorite Halloween images.  Since this is a popular topic, I'm hoping to have a lot more than ten images.  Bring it on!    

The photos below are in no particular order.

The agony or ecstasy of the writhing figure plus the sign is most of what makes the picture. It probably would have worked somewhere other than a private beach, but I think the open water adds a little something.

Joel Rotenberg 

I have several beach photographs in my collection but always come back to this one. Its perfect pose and lighting give it a magical quality. There are very few elements within the image: the boys, the beach, the ball and the sky but the balance and composition are exquisite. 

I imagine a controlling father, probably a keen amateur photographer, directing the kids on how to pose. The long shadows hint that it was taken towards the end of a sunny day. One shadow stops abruptly, reflecting only half the boy whilst the other’s casts a direct line towards his playmate. 

The photo is devoid of any recognizable landmarks or features. It was bought in Brighton, England, so it could be from along that South coast but then again it could really be from anywhere!

Orla Fitzpatrick

My favorite beach photo is also the first real photo postcard I ever purchased, back in 1980 when I was 18. Even though it was 30 years ago, I still remember the visceral thrill I experienced when first viewing what I have long thought of as my "Block Island Girls." I love how the photograph beautifully captures an era: the dresses, bathing costumes, and parasols of the six young women who are the focus of the image, as well as background details like the other beach goers and horse-drawn buggies. And then there are the compelling  facial expressions of the women, which I have always thought provide intriguing clues as to what their personalities were like.

The postcard was mailed from Block Island, RI, on August 5, 1909, and was sent to a Mrs. A.L. Lockwood of Hartford, CT. The message (which I've always assumed was written by one of the young women to her mother) reads, "You'd best bring a sunshade, Ma. It looks kind of auspicious! Love, E.R.L."

Robert Young
Robert is boobob92 on flickr

Vintage hand painted photograph of beach in La Jolla, California, c.1955. This photograph is enveloping - I want to jump into the picture and go surfing (that would not be such a pretty picture!).

Barbara Levine - a world of vintage photographs, found artifacts, art and ideas - the obsession of Barbara Levine, curator, artist and author of Finding Frida Kahlo, Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing the American Photo Album and Around The World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums.

Here's a late-afternoon photograph taken on the east coast. The sun is setting behind the woman taking the photo, so she's captured not just the gorgeous children but her own shadow. The breeze is blowing the ribbon of her hat and has already blown off the little girl's bonnet, which now resembles angel wings. The presence of the woman's shadow prevents this image from being sentimental pictorialism, though that's probably what she was aiming for. On the other hand, maybe she just wanted a snapshot of the children.

The empty beach, the vastness of the sea, the Hansel-and-Gretel fragility of the children, the way the little girl looks up to her stalwart older brother -- the viewer's subconscious can take all this information and supply a rich archetypal narrative.

But I bought the snapshot for the composition.

Pat Street

Sand flows through your fingers. Uncomfortable to grab. It's fluid, without structure. The upper midwest of my youth had lakes and boathouses. Perhaps a short nibble of a beach. Wooden piers were often our beaches. The dilapidated structures near the lake - our playhouses. I often wonder if our lives would have been different if there were miles and miles of sandy beach. How would we change? The environment of youth shapes the adult. I like to think that the linear objects that surrounded us - helped to form the midwest ethic. Strong, solid and uncompromising.

I'm never happy on the sand. It's always shifting. I look for structures to find comfort.

Ron Slattery

Being from the Jersey Shore, I have many opportunities to acquire beach photos and have hundreds of them.   This one is, and will be, my favorite for a long time.  It is a very recent eBay find.  I love that the girl on the right is laughing at the girl on the left.  She is getting her skirt wet doing what we call dancing in the waves. Trying not to do what has happened, only to have the camera catch her unaware as a gust of wind lifts her skirt showing her garter and undies!  So the last laugh is on her!!

Glenn Vogel
You can find Glenn selling photos at various shows in the northeast.  Up next is the Allentown Paper Show, October 1-2, and The Boston Photo Show, November 12th.

I really like this photo because of its simplicity and minimalism.  The starkness is appealing since one often associates the beach with crowds and noise.  It is one of my favorite snapshots.

Robert E. Jackson