the sea, the sea! (2)

On the beach, the light of the sun is blazing, the sea is overwhelming fragrance and  the heat makes parents sleepy. They tell their children to go and dig a hole in the sand, so deep till they find a Chinese on the other side of the globe.

And look, what do we have here? A photobook by Chinese photographer Zhang Xiao, who travelled from 2009 till 2013 along the Chinese coastline (18.000 km!). He shows us the ultra-rapid transformation of China where, especially along the coastline, every day new buildings are erected trying to accomodate its citizens. He shows us daily life on the Chinese beaches.


The coastline is beautiful and dolorous. So many people come here with dreams but then are drown in the crowd, and they go with the stream finally. At the same time, worse and worse environment make people put the problems of environment to unprecedentedly important programmer. When I was a child, I was eager for the sea and I felt the sea is mysterious, and I can never touch it. Now, I also feel as before. I come here to seek strong emotional conflicts and rich image pictures, which may with some mawkishness and mood, lose. The sea is the beginning of lives and dreams, at the same time; I am looking for a hometown in my heart.” (Zhang Xiao)

201351116271122217 zhang xiao

© Zhang Xiao

Dig here to find the book!

David Nollet


the sea, the sea! (1)

Alas! It is all over now for the children who spent the summer on the beaches of Northern Europe. The sea shells are no longer collected by little hands; the seagulls are no longer shouted down by the cheers and cries of little voices, who eventually also get lost in the warm winds and the sound of the ever on-rolling waves.

Only those who have stayed for some time in North Western Europe know that there are no other seas on planet Earth who show a richer pallet of colours than the grey-snotgreen-yellow-brown-… colours of the North Sea. James Ensor became James Ensor because he knew that!

But, obviously, also many great photographers used the ever changing light and its curious reflexions on the waves, the beaches and the tourist installations as a theatre to depict the human condition at the seaside.


© Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Martin Parr‘s work The Last Resort about the New Brighton tourist resort, not far from Liverpool, is a classic. At first it was not well received because working class people became in the book “a sitting duck for a more sophisticated audience” (David Lee). But, let’s be frank, this criticism only layed out what Tatcherism was all about in general: the use of the working class as consumerists by a more sophisticated elite.

Eventually, the book entered the canon on its own merits and people also started to see Martin Parr’s warm compassion for his subjects.

Also another Magnum boy, the Belgian Harry Gruyaert made a classic about the beaches and coasts of the North Sea: Rivages.


© Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

This picture is called “Coffee on the beach in Ostend” and even when it would not be called like that it’s colours would bring back to memory all the odours, sounds and tastes of every one who has enjoyed the evening light in Ostend.

Finally, we also discovered another beautiful work on the North Sea which is not published yet. The Dunkerque Series by the young Belgian photographer Joris Vandecatseye.


© Joris Vandecatseye

Alas! If you wanna have fun while on holiday, sooner or later, you have to go shopping as well!

David Nollet








reporting on the art of the photobook