Dan Thompson: Mods, waves and saucy Victorians in Seaside Photographed

Day Trippers at Aberystwyth, 1985, Colin Thomas

From the drama of waves crashing across the prom to the humdrum of empty shops, and from saucy Victorians to mischievous Mods, Turner Contemporary’s latest exhibition Seaside Photographed captures it all.

The first all-photography show since Turner Contemporary opened in 2011, it includes every type of photography, too, from early Victorian ferrotypes to pictures taken on mobile phones.

There are historic works, including dozens of portraits taken on the beach by anonymous early photographers, and there are ephemeral works, like a cabinet of postcards produced by The Caravan Gallery.

Seaside Portraits, c1850-1920. Courtesy of SEAS Photography, Private Collection

And there are some of the great names of photography, like Bill Brandt, Martin Parr, Lee Miller and Henri Cartier-Bresson, alongside young artists and unknown amateurs.

The broad spread and great mix of work, which took curators Karen Shepherdson and Val Williams four years to bring together, makes for an informal and easily-accessible show. Everyone will find some work that connects with their life and their own interests.

Derrick © Rob Ball 2017

There’s youth culture – Mods, hippies at the Isle of Wight Festival, or illegal raves captured by Stuart Griffiths. There’s seaside architecture, from Butlins chalets by Daniel Meadows to Alfred Cracknell’s 1939 photos of Blackpool Casino’s modernist lines. There are boats, Blackpool Illuminations, sunbathers and paddlers, seaside cafes and ballrooms. There’s plenty of sun, and a few rainy days besides.

Vacant This n That Hannah Blackmore

At the very least, local visitors will be interested in Danielle Peck’s pictures of the old Cecil Hotel, Hannah Blackmore’s photos of empty shops in Margate and Ramsgate, or Rob Ball’s portraits from Jamaican Independence Day on Margate beach.

Stand-out works include Enzo Ragazzini’s Isle of Wight Festival series, Chloe Dewe Mathew’s Scattering of Human Ashes images, Jane Bown’s behind-a-deckchair shot and Bill Brandt’s The Brighton Belle.

Enzo Ragazzini, Isle of Wight Festival, 1970

All English life can be found at the seaside – everyone who lives in this country finds themselves at the beach eventually – and this show captures that. From drunken fun to sad loneliness, from glorious days together to peaceful solitude, it’s all captured in Seaside Photographed.

Seaside Photographed opens on Saturday (May 25) and runs until Sunday 8 September. It’s free to enter. The exhibition is accompanied by a book of the same name, published by Thames & Hudson.

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