Peter Kayafas: Coney Island Waterdance
As we soak up the last rays of summer, we begin Labor Day weekend with a long term project that celebrates quintessential New York summers, focusing on Coney Island beach days. Photographer Peter Kayafas has just released his new monograph, Coney Island Waterdance, published by the Purple Martin Press. The book includes a collection of 30 photographs of people swimming in the ocean at Coney Island, taken over a period of many summers, and even a winter when Kayafas was a member of the infamous Polar Bear Club.
Psychologists have long studied the benefits of sea swimming for mental health and well being, and Kayafas’ spontaneous, energetic capture of ocean play are a sublime reminder of what draws us to the deep blue.
Kayafas shares his experience: “The activity of being in the water, whether it is breathtakingly cold or welcome relief from summer heat, is both a distraction (good cover for a photographer) and a disinhibition, the combination of which makes for remarkably immediate, energized, and even intimate portraits. I kept my camera hidden underwater while I roamed through the crowds of people splashing, wrestling, or embracing; then, at the last moment, I pulled the camera up to my eye to make the photograph. These images are, for me, like passages from some primal, beautiful ballet — the energy, gesture, and emotion of the narrative rising and falling with the subjects on the waves.“
On Thursday, September 9 from 6–7:30 PM EDT, Purple Martin Press, Artbook | D.A.P. and Rizzoli Bookstore will launch of Peter Kayafas: Coney Island Waterdance. Kayafas will appear in conversation with noted gallerist, author and PhotoWork podcaster Sasha Wolf. Please note that this is an in-person event requiring pre-registration and proof of vaccination. You can register HERE. The event takes place at Rizzoli Bookstore, 1133 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.
Peter Kayafas is a photographer, publisher, curator, and teacher who lives in New York City where he is the Director of the Eakins Press Foundation. He is a Guggenheim Fellow (2019), and his photographs have been widely exhibited and are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the New York Public Library; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the New Orleans Museum of Art; and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
He has taught photography at Pratt Institute since 2000. In addition to Coney Island Waterdance, Purple Martin Press has published four other monographs of Kayafas’s photographs— The Way West (2020); Totems (2012); O Public Road! Photographs of America (2009); and The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta (2007). Peter Kayafas: Coney Island Waterdance will be available September 7, 2021, from ARTBOOK / D.A.P.
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