Life’s a beach – introduction to the exhibition

Published on : 12 March 2024

In the United Kingdom, one is never more than seventyfive miles away from the coast. With this much shoreline, it’s not surprising that there is a strong British tradition of photography by the seaside. American photographers may have given birth to Street photography; but in the UK, we have the beach.
Perhaps the natural outcome is Beach photography. Here people can relax, be themselves, and show off all those traces of mildly eccentric British behavior. l’ve photographed the beach over many decades, documenting all aspects of this tradition, including closeups of sunbathers, rambunctious swimmers caught midplunge, and the eternal sandy picnic underway. I started photographing this subject in the 1970s and initially published The Last Resort, a book depicting the
seaside resort of New Brighton, near Liverpool, in 1986. This led me to photograph beaches across the world, including those of Argentina, Brazil, China, Spain, ltaly,
Latvia, Japan, the United States, Mexico, Thailand, and of course, the UK. One unifying activity is the selling of goods, for the beach is a prime place to sell pretty much anything – from ice cream in Brighton, to the services of an ear cleaner in G oa, India, to barbequed fish in Chile, to noodles in China. You can read a lot about a country by looking at its beaches: across cultures, the beach is that rare public space in which all absurdities and quirky national behaviors can be found.

Martin Parr

Here on Lake Garda, we are particularly experienced when it comes to beaches. This special edition of LIFE’S A BEACH shows us Martin Parr at his best with his amusing clichés, rituals, traditions and the hilarious absurdities of beach life; it is enriched further by some of Parr’s own photographs taken in Sirmione and around Lake Garda.
We therefore have the privilege of seeing ourselves portrayed by the unsurpassed irony of this great British photographer’s camera lens.

© Martin Parr, ITALY, Lake Garda, Sirmione, 1999