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.
Two Mile Hollow - East Hamptons
Sea Kayaks - Malibu
Nude beach - San Francisco
Rio de Janeiro