Beach Culture in the 1970's

Joseph Szabo, Jones Beach

While other photographers were photographing the wild exploits at Studio 54 in the 1970s, Joseph Szabo went with a totally different ball game (no pun intended), capturing the beach crowds of Long Island. Interestingly enough, the subjects they photographed are equally interesting, "perhaps" because they were the same subjects, partying the night away at Studio 54 (or more likely Plato's Retreat) in NYC and sleeping the day away on the beach.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Joseph Szabo started capturing the melting pot of humanity on Jones Beach, one of the busiest strips of sand and ocean in the world with more than six million visitors a year. Among the sea of bodies, Szabo’s camera reveals moments of both quiet introspection and unashamed exuberance.

Images of tanned muscle men, catwalk-like displays of beach wear, heavily oiled skin, masses of sprayed hair, and shy adolescents all reveal the dynamics of the beach so close to New York City. Class, race, and other potential divisions are temporarily forgotten, and the perfect and the flawed are portrayed with the same respect and tenderness.

Joseph Szabo, a photographer and former high school teacher, whose iconic images of Long Island teenagers have inspired the likes of Bruce Weber, Terry Richardson, Sofia Coppola and Juergen Teller, spent three decades strolling the sand there, candidly shooting its rather remarkable sunbathers.

The Beach photographs are an explosion of bodies, every type imaginable. Some near perfect, others near extinction, but all are tattooed with summer pride and pleasure taken in play, in touch, in looking and being looked upon. Joe's lens picks up on the group and individual dynamics and reveals the flaw as the norm. The images are meant to be clear, unpretentious and vital. Every single point of reference, every body line and angle, every glint, every shadow, every form and curve, are noticed and all expressions, body and facial are natural and relaxed. These photos are made in trust, trust between the photographer and the subject. And there is truth in the people who are in them because Joe Szabo feels respect and is of the people at the beach. Joe Szabo likes the people he photographs and enjoys what they enjoy.

As the New York Times stated is so eloquently, though some might beg to differ, Joseph Szabo regards Jones Beach as "the best place to be in the summertime". Not exactly "Wish You Were Here" postcard material, but intriguing never the less!

Joseph Szabo is an internationally acclaimed artist whose last two books (Teenage, Almost Grown) have influenced and been admired by a whole generation of photographers. Fans of Szabo, Jones Beach, and people interested in beach culture in general will treasure this funny, sexy, lovely volume created over 35 years.

Jones Beach will go on sale on April 1st 2010 and is published by Abrams.