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Plage Surf

When on the hunt for some inspiration, where better to gather your thoughts than in a sunny, relaxing spot by the water (or better yet, catching some waves on a surfboard)? Rebecca Minkoff got her creative juices flowing for her new Resort and Cruise range by dreaming of the beach, and, more specifically, the surf culture of her native San Diego. And she’s not the only artist who’s enchanted by the seashore. Photographer Laurie Victor Kay, who received her B.F.A. in photography from Columbia College in 1995, specializes in shooting subjects in public places and is primarily drawn to exotic beach locales and the surfers who populate them. Landscape scenes in vacation spots like Nice, Antibes, Cassis, Phuket and more constitute her Plage collection of photographs (on view now at Clic Bookstore & Gallery). We chatted with Kay about her favorite places to shoot, the colors she most likes to work with and why she gravitates toward the beach.

Plage Cannes

What inspires you most about the beach?

There is something so magical about the beach, for lack of a better word. I think it’s an escapist way for me to find a really beautiful palette to work with. We [my husband, Charles Kay Jr., and I] travel a lot. I live in Omaha, but we travel quite a bit to various places and I have been inspired, even years ago going back to art school, by painters that painted beach scenes and really just love the ever-changing color palette and how people move and watching—whether it’s surfers or women laying out in the sun, old, young—there’s something about beaches that really just has a universality, but it’s so personal to everyone that goes there. And it evokes memory as well, so when I’m visiting beaches and shooting, I’m brought back to different trips.

Where are your top beach getaways among the places you’ve traveled?

The beaches of southern France are very high up there, specifically shooting at the beaches of Cannes and St. Tropez. We’ve visited Thailand several times and love the beaches there… and of course southern California is fabulous. Probably for me the south of France is the place I’ve continually returned to and found newer, smaller beaches and some that are more obscure than others, and some that still maintain their ever presence in culture, St. Tropez being one.

Plage St Tropez II

How do you seek out the places you shoot?

France in particular I’ve gone back to because I feel every time we go back I get to know the landscape in a different way, so sometimes what I see the first time is going to be entirely different the second time. We’ve recently been down to Grand Cayman… and I’ve been to the British Virgin Islands before, but I hadn’t been in a long time. The water’s really beautiful down there. I’m trying to hit some new places. I’ve been down to the beaches of Mexico, Costa Rica. In a lot of my work I don’t list the actual beach where it was shot on, sometimes I leave it out because I want to have a little bit of mystery in it and let people figure it out.

What is your favorite time of day to photograph?

I tend to really love the busiest times of day where there’s the most people on the beach, any time in France or even in the states, noon to four [o’clock]. The more people that arrive and come… I tend to like the action.

Plage Cassis IV

What colors of the beach captivate you most?

Color-wise, definitely blue. One of my favorite artists is Yves Klein and that bold blue that he used for some reason always finds a way into my work. A lot of times a person in yellow will find its way into my work. It’s becoming almost funny to me, I have a woman in a yellow bikini in a piece—it’s not that I’m looking for it, but it finds its way. I’d say the blues and the yellows, but the overall color palette is ever-changing and I think with beaches in part you’re just going to get [color] from the water and sky.

What first attracted you to surf culture?

It’s more my love of beaches, because I grew up in Minneapolis and lived in Omaha for so long and, although we travel a lot, I didn’t grow up around it, so it was very foreign to me. I find myself very attracted to things that I don’t know. I think the surf culture is beautiful, but I think for me personally it’s really the whole thing: It’s watching the ocean and the waves and again, the color palette. The culture is really, really cool. I’m a little further removed from it. It’s fun to seek out and find photography. It’s innately tied to my love of travel, and I did travel a bit as a kid growing up and when I got into college and now that I’ve been living where I have. If anything I think living in the Midwest… we tend to travel a lot more because of it. It gives me so much creatively, and I think beaches in particular. I think it’s not just where I live, it’s what I love. There’s something about the beach that has just a personal draw.

Laurie Victor Kay’s work is on view now at Clic Bookstore & Gallery, 255 Centre Street, 212-966-2766.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Laurie Victor Kay