Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Oh they do like to be beside the seaside

The great British seaside: a place that has attracted and held the interest of numerous photographers - not least Martin Parr and David Hurn, whose pictures were exhibited under that four-word title at the National Maritime Museum in London two years ago.

Chris Killip's first solo exhibition, at the Side Gallery in Newcastle (of which he was a founder member) in 1984, focused on the hardy people who eked out a living by gathering seacoal in Lynemouth. The resulting images were in keeping with his generally bleak portrayal of the north east under Thatcher. But, as a new Cafe Royal Books publication illustrates, Killip had previously taken photos of beach subjects at leisure rather than at work. Even then, though, none of them appear to be particularly enjoying the sea air, instead seeming faintly bored or underwhelmed and disillusioned by the whole experience.

Visiting Killip in the mid-1970s, Czech-born London-dwelling photographer Marketa Luskacova also recognised the beach as fertile ground for image making, but her pictures - collected in an RRB book called By The Sea, published to coincide with last year's exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation - are in many ways very different. The stoicism in Killip's work is grim-faced endurance; in Luskacova's, it's a determination to have fun whatever the weather. "Life was good", she has said, "and perhaps my happiness was reflected in the way I photographed there."

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