Marisha Camp: The Beach
I am in love. Deeply in love. and you’d better get a cup of coffee because I am sharing a bumper crop of photographs today. Marisha Camp is an amazing portrait photographer, creating full blown operas with her camera. Each photograph has power, has beauty, has pathos and her body of work is so rich that it is hard to know where to begin.
You see this and think it can’t get much better….
and then you see this…
and then you exhale a little and are flattened by this…
I’ll let Marisha tell you her story:
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. I was too sensitive. I felt everything deeply. I lived in my head. One of my grade school classmates was nicknamed “The Cow.” When she entered a room, the room burst into moo’s. Only free download here. Every day for five years, maybe longer, this poor girl was profoundly set apart, taunted, tormented… And she stoically endured it all and simply said “kids can be cruel sometimes” when I asked her how she survived inside. I tried my best to fight for her then, and in some strange way I have been fighting for her ever since.
In high school, we read Nickled and Dimed, we embraced multiculturalism, it was all so well meaning, but I’ll never forget the school assembly where we were told not to wear baseball caps because baseball caps were for uneducated men named Billy Bob. As soon as we could drive, my brother and I hit the road. We went looking for Billy Bob. Billy Bob driving down the turnpike as fast as his battered car would take him, feeling for a brief moment as though he could fly, the weight of constant struggle and crushed dreams and hard living miles below… Hi ho silvero, deliver me from nowhere… Years later I still hadn’t picked up a camera. I was sitting in an interview for the sort of dirty, thankless, hopelessly underpaid job that, when you’re lucky, leaves you with just enough left over at the end of the month for a few hours of reckless driving with the radio cranked all the way. The manager asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I don’t know where the answer came from, but I told him I wanted to be the Bruce Springsteen of photography.
I went back to school. I started to take photographs, photos of people, photos steeped in the mythology of Billy Bob and “The Cow,” photos of strangers, photos of so many people who would become close friends… I am always drawn to the moments where people are able to escape their realities, where there is space to transform oneself, a space to dream… Of all the things I am grateful for, I am most grateful for the many chances I’ve had to step into other people’s worlds. I shoot democratically- I light everyone. I try to find the light that shines in everyone I meet. Most of the time I succeed. I still live in my head. I don’t imagine I’m making objective documents. I know that every portrait is, to a degree, a self-portrait. I don’t fight it. I need to believe that deep down, we are all the same.
I began shooting the portraits that would become “The Beach” during a long and sweltering August when I was down and out in New York City. Coney Island saved my spirit. I wandered up and down the beach every weekend sheepishly asking strangers if I could take their picture, and I soon found myself fully immersed in the lives of new friends, immersed in their sorrows and joys instead of my own.
On Coney Island, I experienced a sort of generosity that defied every prevailing notion of big city life, of merciless competition and soul crushing anonymity. I was invited onto towels and blankets and offered endless amounts of food and beer. And stories. Wonderfully sad, touching, harrowing, funny, happy, beautiful stories… Four years have passed since then. I still wander up and down the beach each summer.
Every year I’m terrified it will all be over soon, that Coney Island’s fading amusement parks will give way to hotels and Disneyfication. Everything I love about Coney Island is threatened by development and ignored in debates about blight and eminent domain. But this is no graveyard for lost dreams- the beach is vibrant and alive. A colorful wonderland on a hazy summer afternoon, Coney Island is as much an escapist’s dream world as it is gritty and urban and real. And now I shoot and shoot and shoot so some little part of its magic can never fade away.
Images from Pagents
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Thesis Project: Paula LycanMay 9th, 2020