As French photographer Christian Chaize says below, “Almost all of us have at least one personal history with a beach.” His series “Praia Piquinia,” on view at Jen Bekman Gallery through July 11, 2009, is a charming portrait of a small patch of sand as it changes from day to day. The beach is what we make it, Chaize suggests below, and is never the same.

All images courtesy courtesy of Jen Bekman Gallery and the artist, all rights reserved. Interview translated by Jenni Holder.

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There is a familiar touch in each picture—more like a portrait than a landscape. What does this beach mean for you?

I spend lots of time at this place. As soon as the atmosphere is just right, I rush (as much as one can with an 8x10 camera from France—ha!) to take a photo. And it’s there, in that moment, that I discover many stories. The story of a family, of a couple in love or falling out of love. Life, in a sense.

Almost all of us have at least one personal history with a beach, and I believe these images may remind us of them. A photographer is always composing images; here, the people unaware below my fixed tripod (all images are shot from nearly the same vantage point) are composing the images themselves. Yes, I still decide when to release the shutter, in addition to the myriad of technical or aesthetic choices that follow—but it’s a great lesson in humility for a photographer.

What were you searching for when you were taking these photographs?

By continuing to photograph this place, I would like to render it imaginary.

How representative is this series of your shooting style?

My work in general speaks of humanity, and of time passing. In the case of “Praia Piquinia,” this rings true. Who are these people in this environment, who we are as we project ourselves onto the images? And obviously—to me, anyway—this work speaks of the person I am. Of course, time passes: the beach changes from year to year, from season to season. Therefore, the images include nature’s voice within the quiet, stilled dramas. Talk about giving a feeling of humility!

Looking at these pictures now, do you feel a distance from them as the artist? Are you detached from the life of the sunbathers and the ocean?

I am one-hundred percent attached to this place. Each image continues to remind me of the impressions I had when I lived the moment, when I took each and every photograph.

What are you working on now?

I am involved in many different projects, in fact, but I believe I will never be finished with “Praia Piquinia” and this area. I hope not, anyway!


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin