Four Seasons at the Shore is compelling and dramatic, the shore book of the year.”

South Jersey Magazine

Four Seasons at the Shore

Photographs of the Jersey Shore

Essays by Margaret Thomas Buchholz, Sandy Gingras, Larry Savadove, Rich Youmans; Prologue by John T. Cunningham

“Delightful...reminiscent of Annie Proulx’s
The Shipping News...”

11 1/4" x 10 1/4"
large format pictorial hardcover
332 color photographs by 49 photographers

ISBN 0-945582-91-9

In Four Seasons at the Shore, Down the Shore Publishing has created a new and impressive landscape format picture book of the fabled Jersey Shore – all of it, from Sandy Hook down and around to Delaware Bay. Taking a leaf from a composition of Antonio Vivaldi, this saltwater publishing company employs the four-headed metamorphosis of our coast wrought by a single year's passage as a structure, and like the well-known Concerto No. 1 in E, begins with Spring.

Four Seasons at the Shore is a sizeable 10-by 11-inch hardback, with 223 pages of captioned color pictures and text, including an index and short bios of its 54 contributors. The 332 pictures – all superbly clear and composed – vary in size, some large enough and eminently suitable for framing if one were crass enough to remove them and deface the book. Helping make the effect are verse fragments throughout by everyone from Bruce Springsteen ("Cause down the shore everything's all right, you and your baby on a Saturday Night"); to hymns ("In the sweet-by-and-by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore").

Each season is prefaced by an essay written by a person well acquainted with life on the barrier beach islands of the Garden State: Spring, Rich Youmans; Summer, Sandy Gingras; Autumn, Larry Savadove; and Winter, Margaret Thomas Buchholz. These are intensely personal essays, labors of love if any writing could be so described.
Everything found on the Jersey Shore was fair game for the photographers here: the sea and beach, of course; happy shoregoers, boats, birds, surfers, fences, flowers, lighthouses, fishermen and fisher women, steps, docks, decks, wrecks, and reeds. As the season spills from weather-chancy spring into summer, one sees in the art the blue overhead deepening, and the water growing more docile and friendly. Autumn reflects with a lazy spiraling the vast changes just over the horizon, and winter paints everything but moving green water the color of wind-blown spume in a skeleton's eye.

And there are some surprises: cross-country skiers gliding across snowy Ocean City and Harvey Cedars beaches; a weathered house on Island Beach State Park still in use by its lucky owner; a lopsided view from a windsurfer; and any number of deep orange sunsets reminiscent of the familiar and beautiful "Endless Summer" poster. There aren't people obviously in view throughout, though, and there's probably a good reason for this. Part of the charm of Four Seasons lies in the invitation given here to the reader of inserting himself, friends, and family into the photos, calling out from the porches of memory and imagination his own magic days at the Jersey Shore.

The sea and its works, of course, dominate. In many ways the barrier beach islands of New Jersey and the Carolina Outer Banks, unlike, say, the California and New England coasts, present a dimension that is lacking anywhere else. The islands go beyond a single absolute; water is always either behind or in front of you whenever you position yourself here, miles eastward from the mainland proper. Water, vast quantities of it circling the barrier beaches, reaching to other continents, colors a protean scramble: sometimes blue, sometimes gray, sometimes green, that water with sun and fog, humankind joyously reveling in it – all recorded in shots taken by photographers at the absolute top of their game.

To this reviewer the most compelling essay in Four Seasons at the Shore is that of Margaret Buchholz, which begins with a recounting of long ago life on a barrier island. Reminiscent of the Henry Beston classic, The Outermost House, it sheds an intimate winter light on an aspect few will ever experience: growing up – and getting up – through the long seashore cold with cruel nighttime frost and marrow-chilling winds coming from the four points of the compass. And the stark, uncompromising quality of the art itself in this section could make a case that the photos captured in Winter are the most beautiful in the book. Certainly they are the most dramatic and evocative.
There was no central heating in the Thomas cottage on the bay in Harvey Cedars in the 1940s, and when the dark winter came down, Margaret recalls tussles with her brother "over who would get the thick, rough, Hudson Bay blanket, striped in red, green, and black. The loser got Daddy's navy pea coat: I can still feel the weight of it. Sometimes, when the temperature dropped below zero, my brother slept with our parents and I got all the extra blankets ….

"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. Daddy had to get up early, shake down the ashes, put on more coal and open the draft … eventually the heat radiated into my bedroom and I slowly lowered the covers off my nose. I raised one hand and slide my sheepskin slippers from behind my pillow. My other hand pulled my wool plaid bathrobe from the bedside chair. I disappeared under the mound of bedclothes as I dressed in the sleep-warmed cave. Then I would spring from my nest and in two leaps would be rotating next to the potbelly, broiling on one side and chilling on the other."

Four Seasons at the Shore is compelling and dramatic, the shore book of the year – one to leaf through in contemplative moments.

Ed Brown is a freelance writer living in Medford.

Four Seasons
at the Shore

By Edward Brown

Reprinted, with permission, from The Beachcomber
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