The big picture: even tanning on Rockaway Beach, New York

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The Guardian

No one likes a show off, but you can make exceptions on the beach. Playfulness is priced in. The photographer Erica Reade came across this couple’s head-in-the-sand strategy for even tanning on the Rockaway peninsula in the south of the New York borough of Queens in 2017. By then, Reade had been photographing couples on New York beaches for a couple of years.

It began in May 2015 at Fort Tilden beach on the first warm day of the year, when she looked up from her sunbathing and noticed a couple in front of her, bodies entwined, reading books. Their easy intimacy intrigued her, and she snapped a picture with the film camera she had in her bag. After that, when the sun was out, Reade went in search of “all the ways in which people show each other affection on the beach, when they are so much freer and bolder than anywhere else in the city, entangled and asleep on their towels, or canoodling in the water.”

The result, Beach Lovers, first an online series, now a part-crowdfunded book, is never voyeuristic. Rather it is a personal tribute to the range of human relationships, loving or lusty or companionable, that are enabled by sand and sea and free time. These days no sun-drenched beach idyll is innocent of anxieties about a climate-threatened future, but where there is human warmth there is also optimism. “It was only a few years into the series,” Read notes, “that I admitted to myself that I was also searching for myself in this work. I’d been looking for the very connection that I hoped my photos were communicating to others. It can be easy to get jaded about love and humanity living in New York and this series gave me hope when I didn’t have any.”

July 24, 2022 at 12:51PM Tim Adams

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