Gray Malin - The beach from above

How I think about the beach is so often in terms of ruggedness, being alone, wind-swept open spaces and risk. These associations reflect the beach I grew up on, which so many people shunned in preference of the more glamorous and user-friendly beaches in town. As a teenager, I could go down to the beach and be the only person for, literally, kilometres. That's rarely the case any longer, but that was what it could be like.

These days, my time on the beach - on the sand - is quite limited. Beaches have become places I cross to get to the surf. I spend enough time in the harsh Australian sun, so I rarely linger pre- or post-surf in an effort to minimise any further exposure. I no longer own a beach umbrella, large, soft towels to lay on, or minuscule bikinis for sun-bathing. I no longer partake in beach culture outside of its connections to actually going surfing, which is kind of weird, when you think about it. Surfing has become my main experience of the coastal culture, which is separate to those who spend their hours on the sand and paddling in the shallows of the sea.

But beaches are not like that for everyone. Often they are much busier and more populated places, coloured with umbrellas, towels, buckets and spades, resorts and masses of bodies. The beach for them is defined by the shore, rather than the waves and the surf.

This was all highlighted for me by these aerial photographs by Gray Malin (check out his website and blog for more images). For me, they tell a number of stories about coastal culture, about the ways our uses of the beach are broadly common across societies, about the way that the ocean, sand and rocks can be so similar in a global sense, but different in terms of our intimate relationships to colour, texture, geography and form. That is, these beaches are equally so similar and distinct from each other. Years of travel, looking at photos, watching films and reading magazines helped me recognise the coastlines by their differences, which surprised me a bit. But then, Malin's aerial perspective also added a common humanity to those differences, tying the places together in a way that is quite lovely, and which makes me feel small.

 Coogee Beach

Two Mile Hollow - East Hamptons

 Hamptons surfers

 Sea Kayaks - Malibu

 Nude beach - San Francisco

 Rio de Janeiro

 Saint Tropez

 Saint Tropez

 Venice Beach

Manhattan Beach

 Caribbean resort


  1. Great post - I've always loved aerial views and these are stunning - almost painterly...

  2. Wow, as familiar as I am wth the ground level views of Venice & Manhattan, the aerial views are other-worldly-lovely stuff indeed.

  3. I thought they looked like paintings too!

  4. Anonymous11:14 AM

    I love this post of my work and your write-up! Thank you for sharing this with your readers :)


  5. Oh wow! Thanks Gray. I'm glad you felt the post did justice to your gorgeous shots. I'm tempted to come by and buy one from your site!


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