Seaside: Photographed at Turner Contemporary

Seaside: Photographed celebrates and satirises the British seaside

A new exhibition at Turner Contemporary in Margate gets up close and personal with all facets of seaside towns through the ages

Opening at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Seaside: Photographed examines the role of coastal towns in photography – and equally the role of photography in the seaside experience. The exhibition traces this dynamic from the 1850s through to the present day, featuring a number of prominent photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Vanley Burke.

Although the seaside is often spoken of as a collective encounter, the various works serve as a reminder that the ideas and memories surrounding the seaside differ from one person to another. The giddy joy of family holidays is anchored in the work of Raymond C Lawson and Dafydd Jones, while Hannah Blackmore’s more recent documentary of dilapidated, shuttered buildings in her hometown of Ramsgate brings to light a bleak reality at the other end of the spectrum.

Seaside: Photographed at Turner Contemporary
Raymond C Lawson, courtesy of Nicholas Cordès
Seaside: Photographed at Turner Contemporary
Enzo Ragazzini

An even further cry from ice creams and giggling kids is Enzo Ragazzini’s coverage of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, which sidesteps traditional seaside emblems in favour of dozy crowds of festival-goers. Of course, it wouldn’t be a comprehensive exhibition on British seaside photography without Martin Parr’s unmistakeable archive. His Last Resort series from the 1980s will be on show, the first time the series has been displayed its entirety in over 30 years.

Curators Val Williams and Karen Shepherdson describe the significance of coastal towns and their vibrant social make-up: “The British seaside has always been a metaphor for the state of the nation. Decline and regeneration have become seaside descriptors. The coastal population is a complex one – new sets of urban colonisers repurposing seaside buildings and spaces, visitors, émigrés, retirees, all living alongside longstanding citizens.”

Rather than looking exclusively to the past, artists Bethan Peters and Stacie Lee Bennett-Worth have been commissioned to create a new piece of art inspired by seaside residents to be displayed this summer. The exhibition – which is accompanied by a book of the same name, published by Thames & Hudson – will tour other coastal venues around the country next year.

Seaside: Photographed runs from 25 May – 8 September 2019; admission is free;