In The Holiday Pictures, Summerfield has captured a kaleidoscope of life by the British seaside, in glorious black and white, nothing staged or seemingly planned, just opportune moments.
Some of Summerfield’s photographs stand out from the crowd. In one, an older woman walks with a stick along a stone jetty. Ahead of her is the ocean and the horizon - nothing more. In another, a woman with a frame heads down the slipway onto the sand, her shadow in front of her with the sweeping shadow of a seagull on the ground just a little ahead of her steps. And there’s one of an older man in a suit, wearing a cap and sandals with socks, walking along a promenade, head down, with nothing but the sea to his left and a life-buoy ring. Is Summerfield trying to portray sensations of loneliness, perhaps? Or do these moments simply lend themselves to this response? Could it be more about the freedom of taking time to oneself that being by the sea affords many people - the sheer joy of the wind in your hair or the sun on your face as the rest of the world simply melts away?
With all these photographs, of life being lived at the sea’s edge, we are left to make up our own stories and respond in our own way. But, as none of us know what’s over the horizon, this book celebrates the days (even if it’s pouring down) people seek time out, for fun or for reflection near the ocean.
The pictures never show a direct connection with the people in the them; unless the person has turned unexpectedly as the shutter clicks. They have a voyeuristic style, as if we are peeking over their shoulders into their life. And even the more recent images seem to have a sense of times past, perhaps the black and white plays tricks there. In many, there appears to be no contrived idea about best vantage spots; the picture is simply taken as and when.
In her review of the work, Patricia Baker-Cassidy says, “We belong to the tides, they move through us. Again and again, we return to the ocean’s edge”.
Summerfield’s photographs could easily be replicated today. Not to take away from the stories they convey, but because the seaside continues to draw all walks of life to it.
I live on the coast in Cornwall. I took my dog to the beach this morning. There was a kaleidoscope of life there even though the weather forecast was for heavy rain and gales.
In Summerfield’s images we see the bucket and spade brigades, men in suits surveying a crowded beach or trying to read a newspaper, children playing with carefree abandon, individuals lost in thought, and selfie-takers.
Today I saw surfers surfing, dogs chasing balls, children paddling, lifeguards monitoring, and so many faces all turned to the waves and sky. Although not a typical British seaside town, I could easily record life being loved and lived at the water’s edge.
This is perhaps what I take most from The Holiday Pictures - even if they don’t reflect my own holiday experiences, they do reflect the variety of emotions we can all experience near the ocean.
Photo courtesy of: https://www.dewilewis.com/products/the-holiday-pictures