Tide of humanity

Few photographic chronicles have endured like Joseph Szabo’s record of Jones Beach in the US. Part catwalk, part rite of passage, Szabo has watched the Long Island shoreline, and its exuberant bathers, for almost 40 years, and while their fashions and maquillage have careered with the decades, his gaze has remained steady. From the sea of bodies, Szabo picks out the awkward teenager, the preening muscle-man, families, loners, and the large, small and imperfect, all migrants from the city for a day in the sun. His sand-seekers are alternately bold and introspective, larky and demure, but they are always themselves, a fact the Toledo-born former photography teacher never forgets. ‘My favourite subject is people,’ he once said. Looking at his latest decade-spanning exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, you’re reminded of the enduring allure of the sun, as well as Szabo’s influence on fashion photography. His first book, Almost Grown (1978) with screen scribbler Cameron Crowe, was a cult classic in the rag trade. His second book, Teenage (2003), snagged an exhibition at Collette in Paris, while Bruce Weber’s opus would be unimaginable without Szabo. Reluctantly, Szabo’s photographs also reminded us of our waning innocence – an image that looked straightforward in the 1970s may seem less so today. And there’s a nagging nostalgia – even Szabo’s recent photographs seem vintage.

Jones Beach, Photographs by Joseph Szabo, from 1 August to 19 September, Michael Hoppen Gallery, Jubilee Place, London SW3

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