As the summer winds down I thought this book was a good tribute to a great bikini season. I actually didn’t get to the beach nearly as much as I hoped. It’s not the hot sun, salty water or the sand between my toes that attracts me. It’s the people watching. It’s one of the only times you get to stare (under sunglasses of course) at people of all shapes and sizes in basically their underwear. Chest hair, cellulite, wrinkles, freckles, bellies, giant boobs, wedgies, sunburns – it’s alway an interesting study of the human body. You can also tell a lot about a person’s personality by the little amount they are wearing and what they are doing (bikini vs. board shorts kind of guy, umbrella, hat and sunscreen vs. tanning oil, feet buried in the sand vs. neatly crossed on the towel.)
This is why I love master photographer Martin Parr’s book Life’s a Beach. I splurged and bought this limited edition beauty for myself as a birthday present last year and it quickly became one of my prized possessions. After you remove the cardboard slipcase, you have an old-fashioned looking photo album, like the kind your grandmother used to have. Except this one is filled with photos of people from around the world on the beach, everywhere from Latvia to China, giving you a taste of the cultural differences and similarities. In a short video on Aperture’s website where Parr talks about the book he admits “I’m addicted to beaches!”
Aside from his photos being funny, surprising, fascinating, nostalgic, and just plain beautiful, the book details are immpecable. Each images is faceted under photo corner slits and hand-labeled with the location. Between each page is a tissue sheet protecting the images. And if you actually remove one of the images and look at the back of the photo, there’s a little note and signature pattern printed across it (like how you used to see the kodak logo printed on the back when you’d get your photos processed from the pharmacy.)
“If you’re a photographer, the one thing you ought to do is make a book. The great thing about books, people don’t throw them away. How could you ever put this in the bin?” Parr says. Man, This will be treasure forever and definitely never go close to any bin of mine. Thanks Martin Parr and Aperture for this amazing artifact.