Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At The Beach in the 1880s

If I'm being truthful, what first drew me to these photographs by Wallace G Levison was a slight sensation of nostalgia for the past , perhaps brought on - or maybe only made the more acute - by the current world economic crisis.

What I particularly liked was the grading from the more formal photographs, such as these first two images with their rigid triangular composition taken from the precepts of Renaissance painting, ...

Mrs. Frank Montgomery and her fully-clothed children at beach (1887)

Two young girls sitting on rock, looking out on a bay, with a dog lying down next to rock (1889)

... through those images with still obviously posed groupings but without a self-consciously imposed formal geometry ...

A young woman in a print dress (1880s)

... and those recording this compositional process ...

The Montgomery family dressed up and preparing to pose by the shoreline of the beach at Stokemus, near Sea Bright (1886)

... right to images with a curiously modern organisation...

Five girls competing in a swimming match posing by the shoreline at Coney Island, Brooklyn NY (1887)

... and beyond to unstructured candid shots ...

A fully-dressed couple sitting back-to-back reading on beach, a low wooden pier spans the ocean in the background (1884)

Young girls wearing dresses and bathing outfits by the shore (1889)

Three young girls in bathing suits wading at the shore line (1889)

A fully-dressed woman wading on the shore line of the beach in Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY (1889)

An actor talking with two wet girls on beach by the shoreline, Asbury Park, NJ, US

This last image is almost uncomfortably modern in my current nostalgic state of mind ...

Mrs. Freed swimming on her back, splashing up a storm (1886)

... though when this mood passes I'll most likely find it the most satisfying of the lot!

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