Four Seasons at the Shore is compelling and dramatic, the shore book of the year.
Ed Brown, The Beachcomber
11 1/4" x 10 1/4"
large format pictorial hardcover
332 color photographs by 49 photographers
The shore gets to our senses and into our blood, lodges in our memories and rests there all year long. So, to find a book that wraps up its impact is a real gift. Four Seasons at the Shore, newly released from Down The Shore Publishing, captures the moods in 300 color photographs and four authors essays on the seasons.
"As much as words and photographs on paper can possibly convey the sights, smells, sounds, textures, delights, and feelings of a place, we hope youll find the soul of the Jersey shore here," publisher Ray Fisk introduces.
Buy another coffee table just for this one. Four Seasons is a beautiful scrapbook for the people who call the beach a permanent home, and its a security blanket of a souvenir for visitors until they can come back.
It just wouldnt be possible to place yourself and a camera in all the right places and times as did the 49 photographers who focused on the shore over the past two decades.
Practically immersing the viewer in the exhilaration of surfing, Michael Baytoff is there as the young man begins a gravity-defying charge down the face of a glassy wave. The surfers expression is framed in seasplash. Baytoffs photography has appeared in Time, Natural History and Audubon, among others.
Six leaning windsurfers painting classic, colorful swipes along Barnegat Bay are captured from the water by Fisk, whose telephoto lens lets the Causeway Bridge span along the backdrop in horizontal contrast. Fisk covered Atlantic City, the shore, and southern New Jersey for The New York Times, United Press International, and The Philadelphia Inquirer throughout the 1980s.
Some of the photos were published in the Down The Shore Calendar series over the years, but many were suited more for a book than a calendar format and so are seen here for the first time.
"Weve tried to include both the familiar and the seldom-seen, the natural and the developed coast," said Fisk, "for it is often this dichotomy that captivates us."
The dilapidated causeway shack, an endangered species of a shore icon, is pictured in a spring field of flowers and in a winter glaze of ice.
In one of the books many close-up glimpses at wildlife, naturalist Steve Greer pictures a nesting gull and chick in a baby-imitates-mother moment. The fluffy, speckle-headed youngster opens its mouth wide to caw along with her.
Four writers provided the essays. Rich Youmans is a magazine and book editor who has specialized in the history and literature of the Jersey Shore. He is the editor of Shore Stories: An Anthology of the Jersey Shore, co-editor with Frank Finale of Under a Gulls Wing: Poems and Photographs of the Jersey Shore, and co-author with Russell Roberts of Down the Jersey Shore.
In spring, he says, "sunlight winks as if with secrets, with promises." From Sandy Hook, Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island and Cape May Point, Youmans looks closely at springs unfolding. His viewpoints cover the reopening of beach homes, and re-awakening of nature.
"The slow pulse of winter has quickened, and expectations grow," he begins. "Outside, a cyclist rings his bell for no reason, amid young laughter and old longings and the great hush of the waves as they roll in, roll on."
In a style all her own, Gingras speaks to the summer and its taunting brevity. "Under the quiet, summertime, you are urgent and pushy and I cant hold onto you," she says. "I am so lusciously confused by you. Ive lost my sense of time; I put it down somewhere next to that book I was reading, next to the sweaty glass of iced tea."
More descriptions of morning to night use images that were in front of our faces but subliminal enough that we might not have taken note of them. Yet reading the words is instant recognition of the emotions attached.
"The air holds the smell of bacon frying, draws out the laugh of that gull, echoes the cheap, innocent slap of a flip-flop. Wait a bit and the morning murmers with far-off engines starting. Come churn through the wide possibility of water."
Gingras goes on to describe an afternoon "full of itself" at the beach that had beckoned and glittered, and reminds us that family and friends are at the heart of a beachy shore summertime. "Lets go home: take the best shells and hang the wet towels on the line. The outside shower runs like rain. We are cleaner than weve ever been before."
Agrees Shakespeare: "Summers lease has all too short a date." The book is sprinkled with literary quotes in appropriate places.
To pin down fall, Larry Savadove seems to call upon Harvard-honed literary prowess as much as years of wandering the world as a sailor, soldier, journalist and adman.
Savadove is the author of two novels, most recently, The Oyster Singer, and co-author of Great Storms of the Jersey Shore. Most notable among award-winning documentaries are those for "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau."
Autumn, he said, comes to the shore "in small sighs and apologies, as if it knows it doesnt belong."
"But to dwellers by the sea, fall is relief, and belief. The beach no longer smells of coconut oil. It is primeval again."
Savadove is a master of metaphoric allusions. In Savadoves description, "houses stand empty-eyed." As the Earths creatures are nudged by the changing season, "piping plovers flee the rumors that blow down from the North Pole."
Other than some nice references to fishing and tidying up, the writer doesnt credit fall with too many friendly qualities it doesnt deserve. "Fall stirs all the dreads of life.
we listen to the rattle of hollow reeds and the cough of the wind at the window
"we can feel the touch of a hand of an ancient ancestor reassuring, Its all right. Nothing dies, only sleeps. We know. Youll see."
In the facing photo, three men in slickers haul oversized striped bass up the dunes, against the wind.
Winter is presented to us in all its old-time bluster, as memories of when the bay froze over to the mainland every year. Only a Long Beach Island native and noted local writer like Margaret Thomas Buchholz could do firsthand justice to the "invigorating" and "visceral" season.
Buchholz is the author of Shipwrecks: 350 Years in the Graveyard of the Atlantic, to be released this fall; and she is the other half of authorship of Great Storm of the Jersey Shore. She edited the historical anthology Shore Chronicles: Diaries and Travelers Tales from the Jersey Shore 1764-1955, and Seasons in the Sun, a pictorial history. She is editor of The Beachcomber weekly newspaper.
"Early in the morning, ice frosts the jetties and sea smoke hovers over the water," she describes. "The beach is swept clean, then left with a new wrack line of sea-borne detritus. I find a sturdy waterlogged timber with rusty iron spikes, remnant of a shipwreck or storm-dismembered seawall. When the winter-hardened sand freezes, it crunches as I step, collapsing underfoot."
The winters of her Long Beach Island childhood began every morning in a home that was a drafty, isolated cottage facing Barnegat Bay on the west.
"White and red were the colors of those frigid winters. The frozen, crystal white bay, snowy white yard, frosty white windows and vaporous white breath. Red was the stove in the morning, a bulbous iron potbelly in the middle of the room." Red was also her mothers lipstick and the holly berries in the garden.
This is a winter that most modern summer worshipers never see, and the books words and pictures may be enough for them.
Many people over the years have asked Buchholz, what do people do here in the winter, anyway? The same things you do in your winter hometowns, she answers: "cook, drink, argue, make love, read, watch TV, go to movies, have dinner parties
"But we live in a greater space. Its good for our souls to have all that water before our eyes. Especially in the winter."
Down The Shore Publishing is also publisher of many of the abovementioned books. Four Seasons at the Shore is available in bookstores, retail outlets, or through the website www.down-the-shore.com.
New Book Captures it All:
Four Seasons, Shore Moods
Reprinted, with permission, from The SandPaper, Long Beach Island, NJ, 9/1/04. Copyright© 2004 Jersey Shore Newsmagazines.