Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

Stories behind the Images No. 6 – Beach


What makes a picture remarkable? What makes one return to an image again and again?

It is an open ended question, for sure…

Sometimes it is an expression, or the emotion, or the light or composition. This picture, for me, is about mystery.

It is also about the Great British Summer that we know so well – a cold, wet day on Filey beach in North Yorkshire.

This shot was taken towards the end of a short trip down to the beach – the wild side, rather than our usual spot towards the brig. The day was overcast and drizzling, but with two small boys to entertain, it is always good to get out and about when we can and I love the beach in the rain.

The beach was deserted – photographically speaking, this is so much better than on a bright sunny day, and the light was glorious – misty and magical and more than a little threatening.

As always with children and water, the boys were straight down to the sea regardless of the spitting rain and the cold sea breeze. After a bit of splashing, they ran to greet their mum and together all set off down the beach.

In that moment, everything seemed to come together. It looked like a scene from outside of time – as at home in the 18th Century as the 21st – a composition you could imagine on a painting in the National Gallery, as well as in a White Company catalogue. Hair blowing, hand-holding, the sweep of beach and the glowering clouds…

I love this photograph and I hope you will too

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