Summer’s almost here, and for many New Yorkers, that means a trip to the beach or one of the city’s 55 outdoor pools is imminent.
“SPF16: NYC Pools and Beaches in Contemporary Photography,” an exhibition on display at Arsenal Gallery from June 23 through Aug. 26 in New York’s Central Park, celebrates that seasonal tradition with joyful photos that capture New Yorkers soaking up the sun in public recreational spaces.
“They are in the simplest sense happy, jovial places where people go to relax and escape. A lot of people in the city don’t have the opportunity to go on long vacations, and this is where they find their respite, whether it’s lying on the beach, going on rides at Coney Island, or walking the boardwalk at Rockaway,” said curator Jennifer Lantzas.
Though the photos span several decades—the earliest, Christine Osinski’s portrait of a boy at Staten Island’s South Beach, dates to the early 1980s—they share a timeless sense of pleasure and delight. And although Tobias Hutzler’s aerial photos provide a bird’s-eye view of the pools and beaches, many of the photos in the exhibition focus on personalities and relationships at the ground level.
The people depicted in them, Lantzas said, represent the city’s astounding diversity, a fact that can be attributed to the uniquely egalitarian and inviting facilities where they’re congregating.
“I think of our pools and beaches as some of the most democratic spaces in New York City, because they’re free and accessible to anyone. People do take advantage of them, even if it’s just once or twice a year,” Lantzas said.