“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.” —Erica Reade
At a time in global history when connection with others has been tested from two years of separations and quarantining, Erica Reade‘s photographs resonate well beyond the beach atmosphere of the image settings. Her black and white photos are focused on intimacy and physical connections between couples at beaches in New York. She focused particularly on the Rockaways, Fort Tilden and Coney Island, and has called this project “an NYC summer love story.” Expressions of love and sensuality are made visible in these nostalgic black and white photographs.
Reade feels a connection to beaches and is herself a surfer. The photographs in this seven year project reflect the significance of the ocean and land in providing a backdrop for people to relax and interact, and she is also aware of the uniqueness of beach culture and notes, “I pay homage to New York’s uniquely gritty beach culture, and the street photographers who preceded me who so beautifully captured its spirit.”
She has written that the beach is a locale that equalizes people, and perhaps in this there is a purity and authenticity in the interactions within a couple. The images show bodies entwined, hands held, gazes met. People are removing themselves from the routines and stresses of the city, if even for an hour or two.
“We are raw and exposed on the beach, stripped of our clothes, makeup, and our status markers. There is something about being on the beach that emboldens couples to enjoy more affectionate freedom, their inhibitions less hidden than anywhere else I’ve observed in the city.”
Reade has an ability to capture the spontaneous and authentic interactions between couples. There is joy and happiness within these image frames, along with a sense of curiosity and of glimpsing a moment of someone else’s life. Graphically the photographs are also rich in composition considerations that allow the humanity and its messaging, along with the sand, water, and horizon lines, to all intersect and support the framework of the scenes she reveals.
Gulnara Samoilova, founder of Women Street Photographers, contributed an essay for this book and she comments on the unique function of the street photography approach, evident in Reade’s work.
“So often we are in public going about our day, then we see something so unlikely or strangely moving that it snaps us out of the monotony of the mundane. It doesn’t need to be a “big” moment as a photojournalist would pursue; it’s more about discovering the remarkable beauty that surrounds us, should we choose to look.”
Reade writes personally in her essay for the book about her own realizations while shooting this project. “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.”
Erica Reade is originally from Montreal, Canada, and she has been living and working in New York City for over 15 years. Reade holds an MA in International Affairs from New School University, with a background in youth development and women’s empowerment, using photography for social justice. She worked in the non-profit world for 12 years before taking the leap to becoming a full-time photographer in 2018. She is the Founding Director of Camera of the Month Club, a New York City photography collective. She spends as much time at the beach as possible, and her personal work is a reflection of that.
Gulnara Samoilova is a fine art and street photographer based in New York City and the founder of @WomenStreetPhotographers Instagram feed and the traveling exhibition. Before moving to New York City in 1992, Samoilova was the only female fine art photographer in the Autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan, where she was born, in Ufa, the capital. She received national and international awards for her photographs from 9/11, including first prize in the most prestigious World Press Photo competition, The New York Press Club, and she was named Interphoto Photographer of the Year.
Erica Reade : Beach Lovers
Published by Daylight Books
120 pages; 60 Black & White Photographs
8 x 10 inches