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What better place to sense the lightness of summer than at the seaside – especially with a partner next to you. The Brooklyn-based photographer, Erica Reade, has spent over seven years developing a very unique feel for beach life. On her outings to the beaches close to New York City, she specifically pointed her camera at couples who had stolen a few hours to escape the humdrum of daily life. “I’ve never seen people happier in New York than when they are by the ocean, with someone special next to them,” the photographer declares. She has managed to turn her series into a perfect work of art, capturing private intimacy without any feeling of voyeurism.

“It was a thrilling challenge to bring this side of New Yorkers to light – to witness and document the beautiful range of human connection. Whether lust, companionship, or sharing a deep laugh, it is all somehow rawer and more vulnerable on the beach,” Reade explains. Her black and white motifs reveal far more than the seaside atmosphere: just looking at the pictures conveys a sense of relief and relaxation, and causes the experiences of separation and quarantine – which in recent years have put life and many an excursion to the test – to fade, in favour of a long-lost summer feeling. Free from the pressures of work, responsibility and even clothing, it is easier to breathe and dream of a more carefree world.

Reade, who is herself a passionate beach-goer and surfer, feels connected to the sandy waterfront. The series was produced primarily at the Rockaways and Fort Tilden, but also on Coney Island. Her images reflect the significance of the ocean and the shore as a backdrop for relaxation and interaction between people. She is aware of the uniqueness of seaside culture, saying, “I pay homage to New York’s uniquely gritty beach culture, and to the street photographers who preceded me, and who so beautifully captured its spirit.”

The expansiveness of the ocean, the constant motion of the waves: the beach invites you to meditate, to calm yourself, and even find yourself. The photographer concedes: “It was only a few years into the series, 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.” A combination of feelings – serenity, melancholy and, above all, empathy towards the couples portrayed – pervade this wonderful photo book, without it simply becoming nostalgic. So, now is the time to pack your beach bag! (Ulrich Rüter)

Erica Reade: Beach Lovers
Texts by Erica Reade and Gulnara Samoilova.
120 pages, 60 black and white pictures.
English, 20.3 x 25.4 cm.
© Max McQueen

Erica Reade

Born in 1983, Reade is originally from Montreal, Canada. She has been living and working in New York City for over 15 years, and is today a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn. She received an MA in International Affairs from the New School University, with an emphasis on youth development and the advancement of women. As a self-taught photographer, she has always stood for social justice. She worked for non-profit organisations for twelve years, before daring to begin a career as a full-time photographer, in 2018. She is the Founding Director of the Camera of the Month Club, a photography collective in New York City.

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