The seaside is a popular destination for holidaymakers; a place of freedom, relaxation and vitality. There is good reason why Dan Baker has made the British seaside his main theme: he wants his photographs to be a celebration of life. This means that he looks for the positive moments and small details that bring amusement and a smile to the lips of the viewer.

What fascinates you about the British seaside? What does it stand for?
For me – and I’m sure for the case of many Brits –, the seaside is a symbol for childhood family holidays. There are so many memories of long summer days wrapped up around the UK coastline, and all the unique aspects it has to offer. We find a certain amount of escapism when we hit the seaside, and this affords us time to enjoy all the little moments that are on offer. So for me, there is a certain amount of nostalgia associated with the coastline, as well as a joy to explore it; and then there are all the nuanced details that make up a backdrop for young families today to make their memories.

What do your pictures convey?
The images I make celebrate the old and tired facades of the seafront, and are beautiful reminders of all the days they have seen. There is a certain amount of history wrapped up in it all; and, if we look closely under a few layers of salt and sand, there are some hand-crafted details that still celebrate the heyday of the British seaside. I want to show the little positive moments in life; but I’m also chasing a feeling in the scenes I’m drawn towards.

To what extent are your images spontaneous – or are they composed?
I have a mixed approach to the way I work: I walk up and down a small stretch of promenade where nearly all my images are made, and I quickly frame moments as they happen. Sometimes those moments are only fleeting, and have to be captured as you see them on the fly. There really is no other way to capture energy, at times. In contrast, I also enjoy carefully composing frames: this may be based on quick action, but does require a more considered look at the greater scenes that I come across.

What does summer mean to you and in your work as a photographer?
Whereas it’s a time for many to relax, for me it’s the time to submerge myself into all that rich British culture, that really flourishes in the sun. The light is one of the key factors for the type of work I enjoy producing. I love to see the impact of all the harshly exaggerated primary colours the seaside has to offer. Hopefully, this all leads to my favourite time of day for working: if I’m lucky, the clouds stay away, we head towards the golden hour and then into twilight. With a clear sky, the colour changes once again and paints everything in pastel tones. The gradual gradient of the sky, and the soft hues give me the exact light and colour conditions that reveal that almost dreamlike time of day, and invoke a certain feeling I’m constantly chasing in the work I want to do.

Man and nature, a unique symbiosis. How do you strike a balance between the two motifs in your photos?
We have influenced everything around us in the world today, so it’s hard to escape man’s impact on nature. So most of the things I photograph speak of that impact on some level. I try not to dive too deeply into the negativity associated with some of that impact – though litter strewn all over a beach at the end of a day is hard to ignore. I like to make something of this, however, and I can see a strange beauty in a discarded coke can in the sand. I’m not saying it’s good that it’s left there. I’m just saying: here’s a strange object and, on some level, if it wasn’t litter, then perhaps it could be beautiful.

You used several Leica cameras: which one did you use for what and why? How was your experience?
I’m lucky enough to have a small collection of Leica cameras, and I do enjoy shooting with all of them. I predominantly shoot with my digital cameras now, mainly due to my workflow and the constant workload of personal projects throughout the summer. This means that my camera of choice is mostly the M11, which I can work with quickly. I do still enjoy shooting on film with my M6, but this is now more of a luxury I indulge in on the occasional long summer’s day, or if I’m heading away on holiday.

What do you look for in your photography? What do you consider especially important?
I think of ‘street photography’ as a game of poker. I’m constantly looking to play the next best hand with the cards that I’ve been dealt. There are three core things that I look for: composition, moment and colour. If I can find these – also perhaps some beautiful light –, then I’m onto something that has the potential to be a frame worth capturing.

There are many places by the sea: to what extent is your project also a narrative about the British themselves?
The images I make speak of who we are as Brits at the seaside. We have certain expectations when arriving at the coast: paddling in the cold water, enjoying an ice cream, wasting a bit of money at amusement arcades, and eating fish and chips while sitting on the promenade. Without our British seaside culture, the images I make would look very different indeed.

Dan Baker is a seaside street photographer based in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, UK. His work explores the beauty, quirky and sometimes funny moments that he sees at the ever-developing British seaside. With an open mind he discovers simple scenes often bathed in beautiful light. Frequently adding layers and colourful obscurity, he invite us into his photos, with a curious interest for what might be within the deeper picture. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.

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