Down the Shore, By the Sea
Book available for sale: here
I often refer to Wildwood as my muse and my happy place. Every time I visit this New Jersey shore town, I can't get enough of the beach, boardwalk, wacky architecture, colorful neon signage, and the signature faux palm trees. I feel truly at peace relaxing by any of the town’s well-manicured and color-coordinated motel pools while listening to 50s and 60s hits, or soaking up the sun on the endless Wildwood Crest beach with family and friends. The tranquility of a day down the shore makes room for feasts that fuel late night fun on the boardwalk.
Until recently, Wildwood was the only place I had ever been that made me want to stay up all night eating pizza, playing games, riding rides, shopping, people-watching, dog-watching, running into friends, eating ice cream sundaes, and walking the boards until my feet give out. My absolute favorite thing to do late at night is wander the streets with my husband, looking at all of the unique, glowing motel signs. We “ooh” and “ahh” at the fonts and colors, and ponder what their names represent. Each motel has its own unique story, a family who owned it, and often an interesting reason for its unique name. Over the years, these businesses have been passed down to new generations or changed hands, but many maintain their signature signage and well-curated Doo Wop aesthetic.
I never thought I'd find another place quite like Wildwood until I visited Pietrasanta Marina on the northern coast of Tuscany in Italy. Instead of faux palm trees, neon lights, and a wooden boardwalk, this beautiful seaside town is lined with real palm trees, iconic bagno signage, and a marble slab promenade. My husband and I immediately felt at home walking the slabs, eating delicious seafood, pizza, and gelato while taking in the sights and sounds of 70s rock cover bands, cute dogs, and the latest Italian fashions. It was heartwarming to meet the owners of Bagno Carlo and hear the history of their family business and the tradition of privately owned beaches. Carlo Jr, the owner’s son, told me, “This is where Italy taught the world how to live by the sea.”
We could not believe we had traveled 5,000 miles from home to come to a place that, at its heart, was so similar to the Jersey Shore. It actually took traveling all the way to Italy to fully understand why I love both of these places so much and my purpose for documenting them. Wildwood and Pietrasanta Marina are rare time capsules that allow the average person to enjoy time off with family and friends amidst historic architecture and signage by the ocean and sea. Both towns have found a way to hold onto the beautiful establishments created by previous generations and allow visitors such as ourselves to truly appreciate them.
I've tried to capture the feeling and essence of Wildwood and Pietrasanta Marina using a variety of experimental 35mm photographic techniques including double exposures, layered color and prism filters, saturated films like Kodak's Ektar 100, and pre-exposed films such as Dubble and Psychedelic Blues film. My hope is that this project allows you to take a look through my lens and see the beauty I've found in these remarkably similar coastal towns.