Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Working the Beachfront

Dyan + Bryan 4 Evuh (or until the next wave), 2011

On Sunday I went down to the beach for my afternoon walk. My current schedule allows me time to do five miles in the morning and five in the afternoon. I usually walk in the neighborhood, where I have a measured course. But it was such a beautiful day that I thought it foolish to miss a chance to walk on the beach.

The only surprise was how crowded it was. The beach and boardwalk were full of people. Sometimes I walk up at the residential north end of the beach. I can usually count on running into a few people I knew. But this past Sunday I instead walked down in the resort area where I know almost no one. Not that many Sundays ago you’d have only seen a few people on the beach. But this past Sunday it looked more like June. It was warm enough that some people were even swimming and playing in the surf, although I suspect they’re Northerners whose water temperature frame of reference must be Lake Erie.

I really hadn’t any idea of what I was going to photograph when I started out. I’d vaguely thought about doing something abstract with sand. But after I’d walked a few blocks I discovered that the tourists had arranged a topic for me. Photo walks can be like this. When confronted with something unexpected, I’ve learned that it’s generally smart to forget what you’d planned and go with what you find.

I took a few pictures of the surf and the sky. But the real attraction turned out to be the words and marks people had left written in the sand, like the photo above. I don’t know Dyan or Brian. But part of the ritual of their visit to Virginia Beach was obviously leaving a mark, however temporary, of their relationship. It’s sort of like carving your initials in a tree, only these initials are no more lasting that the next high tide. (I’m not sure what this says about Dyan and Brian’s chances.)

I do have one regret about Sunday that reminds me how I have to brush up on my people skills. In the midst of a group of people standing together near the water I noticed a gorgeous African American woman wearing a particularly striking green dress. Her deep black skin and that green dress would have made a killer picture in the afternoon sun. But I was so caught up in the moment that by the time I realized that I should take a picture of the woman I’d walked almost a half block on. Bu the time I got back she’d left the beach.

I tried to make up for this oversight a little while later when I saw a guy with some particularly eye-catching tattoos running from his shoulders down his back. I’d been thinking last summer about doing a series of photographs of people with tattoos and sunburn and figured this guy might be a good place to start. He looked friendly enough. He seemed initially flattered when I asked whether I could photograph the tattoos. But after a moment’s reflection he refused my request. “The gal I’m with isn’t my wife,” he explained. “You know how that goes.”

I don’t, but I didn’t want to find out.


  1. Haaaa! "What happens in VA Beach doesn't necessarily stay in VA Beach." Love the photo: good old Dyan & Brian. Little do they know they're the topic of a blog post.

  2. When I moved to Rappahannock County, the first house I rented was WAY off the beaten path in a place called Old Hollow. My neighbor (in what I thought was an attempt to be neighborly) came by to introduce himself. (And by "introduce himself", I mean he invited himself in which made me nervous because I was only 23 and lived in the middle of nowhere and had no phone.) In the course of the conversation he told me his wife lived "up that way" and his girlfriend lived "down that way". Then he asked me I would go out on a date with him. I politely declined and spent the next few weeks with my lights off hoping he wouldn't show up to be "neighborly" again.

    People are funny.