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A Look Through the Lens at The Great British Seaside

A Look Through the Lens at The Great British Seaside

Image from The Great British Seaside exhibition

Oh! we do like to be beside the seaside us Brits. What better than a stroll down the prom with an ice cream or a cone of chips in hand ready for the seagulls to have a swoop at. For all lovers of that most quintessentially British past time of being battered by the wind as we try and enjoy a family holiday by the sea, there’s an exhibition we think you’ll really like.

The National Maritime Museum has opened, The Great British Seaside: Photography from the 1960s to the present, which documents and celebrates the nation’s love affair with the seaside. It features over 100 works by four of Britain’s most celebrated photographers – Martin Parr, Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Simon Roberts.

Image from The Great British Seaside exhibition
Blackpool Promenade, Lancashire, 24th July 2008. © Simon Roberts Courtesy Flowers Gallery London

The British Seaside exhibition explores our changing relationship with these coastal destinations over the last six decades, covering the country’s most beloved beaches from Brighton to Blackpool, and capturing the traditions, customs and eccentricities associated with them.

Image from The Great British Seaside exhibition
Eastbourne, East Sussex. c.1968 © Tony Ray-Jones – National Science and Media Museum

Through the work of some of Britain’s most celebrated photographers, each sharing a mutual love and fascination of the seaside, the exhibition will showcase photography from their archive collections, as well as negative contact sheets and video footage. The exhibition will feature 20 new works by one of Britain’s favourite photographers Martin Parr.

GB. England. Dorset. From West Bay. 1996. © Martin Parr – Magnum Photos

It’s a nostalgic journey from start to finish, featuring the iconic beach huts that adorn most notable coastal spots, deck chairs, fish and chips and donkey rides, all synonymous with a trip to the beach.

The styles may change down the era, but there’s something comforting in knowing that things never really change that much with the same traditions being upheld, most notably how Brits doggedly try to enjoy themselves despite the often terrible conditions.

GB. England. Herne Bay, Kent. 1963 © David Hurn – Magnum Photos

From the 1960s, when documentary photography in Britain gained greater attention, through to the modern day, each photographer here brings their own distinctive approach to capturing both the changing and unchanging nature of the British seaside experience.

Through recurring themes of place, tradition and class, the exhibition holds up a critical, yet affectionate and often humorous, mirror to one of the greatest British traditions.

Image from The Great British Seaside exhibition
Cleethorpes Pier, North East Lincolnshire, September 2012. © Simon Roberts Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London

The Great British Seaside exhibition runs until 30 September 2018 at the National Maritime Museum. For more info go to their website:

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