Thursday, February 3, 2011

Back to Beautiful and Bleak (Blighty).

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Back to England! I think this is a delightful representation of the other side of the British Seaside, believe it or not, this is a Kodachrome shot, and it was taken August 1964! Not at all the colourful romp of Blackpool or Weston-super-Mare, it's the sobering and brisk gloom that is ever-present, timeless, and strictly characteristic of Britishness. At it's worst, it represents the oppressive everyday life of the average person who is always reminded of how much more the haves have; at it's best it's the "Carry On," the "Stiff Upper Lip," the glass-half-full pearly positivity that people who join together to make the best of bad times often have.

Tony Ray Jones, Ramsgate, from BBC's Genius of Photography page

I think the person who first captured this distinction of the British Seaside was Tony Ray Jones, who died too young in 1972 of Leukemia. As far as I know, he shot almost completely in black and white, which keeps him from scoring a perfect 100  - but certainly one of the best. However, I don't think anyone has yet to top Martin Parr for nailing both sides of the seaside story. He consistently comes out numero uno on my list of favourite photographers, and is an alchemist when it comes to using colour in photography. See his specatular portfolio at Magnum Photos - and particularly the image from that link. My most treasured item in the Archive is his 7 Colonial Still Lifes published by Nazraeli Press - it comes with a signed print of a bowl of oatmeal. Hilarious and colourful, bland and picturesque: that pretty well sums up what I love about Parr's work and the British Seaside.

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