SEAS Photography

The South East Archive of Seaside Photography (SEAS Photography) was first established in 2012 with assistance from a Heritage Lottery Fund award.

walkies-seas-270The curated (exhibitions) and disseminated  (presentations / book chapter) research emerging from SEAS Photography provides new insight into commercial seaside photographic practice from 1860-1980. The research brings focus onto a hitherto overlooked form of demotic photography, revealing rich seams of imagery and offering new perspectives on working class coastal history. Through exhibition, publication and conference presentations, images which have never previously been seen are made visible and accessible.

The research, directed by Dr Karen Shepherdson explores how the specificity of  commercial seaside photography all too readily encourages an edited past - one where it is easy to deny a broader contextualisation of limited opportunities, particularly for the working class, with elitism and class boundaries still firmly fixed. The research through image and text seeks to reframe and recontextualise ‘sunny photographic snaps’, providing counter-narratives and fresh insight.


In addition, the SEAS Photography reappraises the work produced by itinerant shoreline photographic practitioners which has too often been dismissed as inartistic and disposable wears – cheap seaside ephemera offering a while-you-wait likeness in an almost instantaneous image. Such a view of photographic practice and persona is now being reframed and the simplistic bifurcation of studio photographer as legitimate and itinerant seaside photographer as rogue challenged.

Thus, this research importantly examines how the commercial British seaside photographer, using the beach as his/her peripatetic studio can be reconsidered, acknowledging both the innovative practice of making commercial photographs plein-air and also the sitter’s experience of having one’s image made within the public sphere. As the curation of exhibition’s such as Beyond the View (2014) and subsequent presentations and chapter argues, though the motivation of these commercial photographers might have been principally focused on income generation rather than creative practice, there remains substantial evidence that despite working at pace, many images produced stand up to close scrutiny and (re)evaluation today.


  1. Beyond the View: Reframing the Sunbeam Photographic Collection, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, UK. July 10th – August 23rd 2014
  2. Beyond the View: Reframing Early Seaside Photography, Arts & Humanities Research Council website AHRC Image Gallery
  3. Beyond the View on Tour, Droit House, Margate, as part of the 2016 Margate Festival, (August-September 2016)


  1. Ball, R. and Shepherdson, K.J., Beyond the View: New Perspectives in Seaside Photography, (2014), Burton Press.
  2. Shepherdson, K.J. (forthcoming) ‘Beyond the View: Reframing the Early Seaside Photographer’ in Kerr, M. and Ingleby, M. (eds), Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century, Edinburgh University Press.


  • Beyond the View: New Perspectives on Seaside Photography, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury & Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate, UK. July 10-11th 2014

Further Dissemination via International Conferences

  1. Shepherdson, K.J., Beyond the View: Reframing the Early Commercial Seaside Photograph at Coastal Cultures of the Long Nineteenth Century at Oxford University, 14-15th March 2014
  2. Shepherdson, K.J., Remembrance and (Re)membering: Contrasting Perspectives on the Sunbeam Photographic Collection at ‘Archives 2:0: Saving the Past, Anticipating the Future’, National Media Museum, UK,  November 2014
  3. Shepherdson, K.J., Discovering Presence: the innovative practices of women photographers at the seaside’, FastForward: Women in Photography Conference, Tate Modern, 6-7th November 2015 Tate film of Presentation
  4. Shepherdson, K.J., Prosaic Persistence: the enduring material potency in photographic seaside ephemera, Photomedia 2016, Helsinki, 30th March – 1st April 2016

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Last edited: 29/01/2018 12:28:00