August 12, 2016 8:01 AM EDT Beach day is more than an activity; it’s an event, a summer tradition. From the era of layered Victorian bathing suit to today’s bikini and speedo days, the timeless weekend activity continues to entice outdoor lovers to kick off their heels and ditch the suit and tie for some prime sand time. And for photographers, the beach is a captivating place.
“I keep returning to shooting beaches all around the world,” the British photographer Martin Parr tells TIME. “I am tantalized by the similarities and differences in how each country regards their beaches. I love the spatial aspect of how a beach works, it has become my favored shooting location, and like a lemming I keep being drawn back to this subject.”
Over the years, photographers have returned to the bustling beaches to frame some of the world’s most charming human moments: photographer Arlene Gottfried’s humor in contradiction at Riis Beach framing a nude body builder with a jew, at Coney Island; Harvey Stein’s iconic man in a bow tie nods its head to a disappearing way of life; Parr traveled to India, capturing a quiet woman catching early morning rays, oblivious to the hustle of fishers behind her. Joseph Maida’s Hawaiian beaches examines the varied shores of layered identities, while Gillian Laub turns nostalgic to the childlike whimsy of beach play.
As summer reaches its final months, we take a look at the work of these photographers.
Rachel Lowry is a writer and contributor for TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram . Kovalam in Kerala, India, 2016."This for me is a very good illustration of the contradictions around a modern tourist beach, such as Kovalam, one of the most popular beaches in Kerala. The traditional fishing industry is now in decline, with overfishing, but still the locals pull in their nets twice a day. Often they can earn more cash by asking the tourists for cash, than for actually selling their now, rather depleted fish catches. This particularly early morning tourist lies on the beach oblivious to the scene behind her." Martin Parr—Magnum Photos Hassid and Jewish Bodybuilder, 1980."The man showed up on Riis beach when there still was a nude bay and all the people started gathering around him. A nude man walks up to him and says take my picture with him because I am Jewish too!" Arlene Gottfried Abir, Munir, And Sullman Jaffa, 2002, from the series "When I made this photo in 2002, it felt like the beach was where the country came to escape the daily turmoil. Just the day before, a suicide bomber killed and injured many (in Israel). The innocence and rapture expressed here made me momentarily forget the tragedy that had just occurred down the street. This remains one of my favorite images I made at the beach because of the unbridled joy these children exude." Testimony. Gillian Laub Blayze#2 (Filipino, Chinese, Irish, Spanish), 2012, from the series "Hawaii's varied shores provide an ideal backdrop for my portraits of the Islands' young men, who embody not only the layered identities of this place but also an inclusive vision of masculinity. It's meaningful to return again and again, even to the same beach, to discover that, much like people, the same place is never exactly the same on a different day, let alone a different season or year." New Natives. Joseph Maida—Courtesy Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York Priscilla, 1969."When my wife and I first moved to Long Island, a friend suggested I visit Jones Beach because of my love of
photographing people. The ever changing variety of people, faces, bodies, and expressions, decade after decade,
always fascinates me. Priscilla seems to embody strength and determination and the quality of a timeless image." Joseph Szabo—Courtesy Gitterman Gallery Comfort Zone, 2013."I started this series because I was surprised how a certain place or surrounding can affect people's behavior. During our everyday life we attempt to hide our deficiencies, both physical and psychological. However, once we find ourselves on a beach – we forget about everything and start acting in an absolutely different manner." Tadao Cern 02.07.10 #8, 2002, from the series "I began a series of large-format photographs of the ocean surface, titled 'Ocean Details.’ I was interested in an abstracted view of the sea where I would basically set up the camera and just let the picture take itself.
I trekked out to the bluffs of Montauk, NY to photograph year round, in all weather conditions. Inspired by memories and drawings of the sea, I considered my subject matter a theater, a skin, a blank screen on which I could project an array of emotions." Sea/Sky. Joni Sternbach Untitled, 368
from the series
"As a figurative photographer, [the beach] is one of the most natural places for me to make my art. [This photo] expresses the reason why we all love to come to the beach to play.” Fire Island Pines, Polaroids 1975-1983. Tom Bianchi Coney Island, 1982.
"Wearing a long sleeved jacket and boots, I was on my knees, probably around two feet away from my subject: the lady in the bikini. A man came over and asked her, "What is he taking a picture of?" She pointed over there." Bruce Gilden—Magnum Photos Man wearing bow tie, 1970."This photo was taken on the pier of the Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn during the summer of 1970. For me while it's quite graphic with the older man sitting against the sky, I think it shows a disappearing way of life, a man dressed with bow tie and long sleeved white shirt reading a book, with lunch on his lap, in the middle of summer at the beach. He's out of step with the people enjoying the beach below." Harvey Stein More Must-Reads From TIME Meet the 2024 Women of the Year Greta Gerwig's Next Big Swing East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment In the Belly of MrBeast The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap How Long Should You Isolate With COVID-19? The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time