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In 1975, Tod Papageorge journeyed across the continental US in order to reach the glorious city of Los Angeles. The movies and music of popular culture during that time described the city of Angeles as an oasis of beauty, and he was fascinated by it. After getting there though, Papageorge sought to depict perception versus reality in a photo series, which he continued in other trips in 1978, 1981, and 1988.

“What I wanted to do on this project was examine those preconceptions (at least as I conjured them) through the descriptive power of photography in order to pin down what two semi-myths - the world of surfers and the life of southern California beaches –‘really’ looked like.” The result of those sun-drenched trips are now published by Stanley/Barker as At the Beach, a photo book that shows a glorious era for beach-goers (eat your heart out, Margot and Ryan).

“I think that part of what these beach pictures are about is the difference between our preconceptions of a place and what, when we get there, that place turns out to be,” he says about his newly released photo book. “A good photograph must, in some palpable sense, distinguish what it describes,” the American photographer continues. His beautiful black-and-white pictures of ‘70s and ‘80s California show young people frolicking on a Los Angeles beach – smiling faces, large groups of people, and lounging friends scattered across the beach. We see families, we see children, we see friends, and through At The Beach, we see what Los Angeles was like in the 1970s, an influential moment and place in time that has later inspired everything from Lana del Rey to the Barbie movie. Did popular culture create an accurate perception? Only one way to find out: check out At The Beach.

Zach Lee

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