Ready for summer? Gray Malin’s ‘Beaches’ lets you dive in around the world

Early one bright morning in 2011, photographer Gray Malin was peering down onto the pool at the Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas. It was a crowded scene of sunbathers, yet he was captivated by the repetitive shapes and designs from his bird’s-eye view perspective.

“I loved all of the action going on,” Malin said. “The people splashing around, the colors, the chairs, and a lightbulb went off.”

Santa Monica's strand in Gray Malin's
Santa Monica's strand in Gray Malin's "Beaches." (Gray Malin)

Wanting to shoot more images from this perspective, Malin embarked on a high-flying series of excursions aboard a doorless helicopter, photographing beaches around the globe from 500 to 2,000 feet above. The result of his 5-year- project is a collection of 125 color photos in the new Abrams monograph “Beaches.”

The L.A.-based photographer captured aerial images from more than 20 locales across six continents: the sandy shores of Kauai and Saint-Tropez in France, the warm white sands of Mexico, the rugged landscape of Cape Town, South Africa, or the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

“I’ve always been drawn to geometry and linear composition,” said Malin, who would tether himself into a helicopter, then lean out of it traveling 60 to 100 mph, looking for specific moments and configurations — pink and white chaise longues, perhaps, forming a symmetrical pattern on a Miami beach. Umbrellas appear as pinwheels and starmints in Amalfi, as fluffy white meringues in Dubai. 

“Although it’s the same subject, each location presented such different ways in which people celebrate the beachgoing experience,” Malin said.

"Coogee Wave," Sydney, Australia. (Gray Malin)

He noted the Italians' affinity for elite beach clubs and the sunrise-to-sunset beach-worshipping culture in Rio de Janeiro.

 “Each geographic location I visited," he said, "revealed the love of water is a universal experience.”

Gray Malin's full-frame image in Rimini, Italy.
Gray Malin's full-frame image in Rimini, Italy. (Gray Malin)

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