Itlay's Summer Beaches

PHOTOGRAPHERS DON’T EVER really take vacations. They’re always shooting. Or thinking about shooting.

Take Bernhard Lange, for example. When the German photographer visited an Italian resort on the Adriatic Sea, all he could think about was how the endless rows of beach umbrellas might look photographed from the sky. “Already from the ground, they looked very symmetrical, repetitive and graphic,” he says. “I thought they might look even more interesting from above.”

Lange has been shooting from above for five years, traveling as far as Florida for his stunning shots. For this summery series, Lange hired a small plane to fly him along the coast. It circled the beaches between Ravenna and Rimini, where millions flock every year to forget about work and worries. As the pilot did his thing, Lange leaned out the window to keep his camera parallel to the ground.

The aerial images show a beach overrun by cheery arrangements of umbrellas and deck chairs. The bright, saturated colors are eye-candy in a literal sense, conjuring peppermint swirls, lollipops, and hard ribbon candy. Tiny people dance in the water, frolic along its edge, and doze in the shade. “On the ground you’re in the middle of the the crowd and part of the beach life of the resort. [In the air], you’re a beholder, not part of the scene,” he says.

Lange finds these colorful tableaux simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. He’s fascinated by how humans use and impact the earth, and has photographed everything from coal and phosphate mining to shipping container ports. Though crowded beaches full of frolicking vacationers look lovely, all those people leave a mark. “These landscapes show the massive dramatic impact we have on the environment,” he says. “On the other hand, there’s beauty in it, and this contrast is interesting for me.”

Images from Bernhard Lang’s aerial beach series are on view at the Mesdag Collection in Den Haag, Netherlands through November 1.

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