On a summer afternoon in New York in 2008, photographer Caitlin Teal Price decided to head to Coney Island. Although the mix of people hanging out at the beach was fascinating to Price, it was the sunbathers who inspired her as they lay on their backs “a bit vulnerable and poised for observation,” she said.
It marked the beginning of the series “Washed Up,” which she’s worked on now for roughly five years. Although some of the images have been shot around the country, including Florida and California, Price has found the people in New York (predominately Coney Island and Brighton Beach) to be more interesting and has focused most of the series on them.
Because she feels the bodies “lay specimen-like” under the hot sun, Price photographs them during midday, when the light is most intense. This allows her to get the depth of field and focus she wants for the images. It’s somewhat of a departure from her other work, where highlights and shadows are more important.
“Washed Up” is also one of her longest-running series. Price says typically she ends a project when she’s tired of it, which happens around the two-year mark. But regardless of length, all of her projects share a similar philosophy: “Instinct and circumstance draws me to a series,” she said. “Even though each series is different, all of my work centers around themes I can’t seem to stray from: ones of magnificence and uncertainty, power and vulnerability, psychology, life and death.”
While the images in “Washed Up” have a somewhat impersonal feel to them, Price says she asks all of the subjects permission before photographing them. “Making these photographs without asking permission would seem so much scarier than it already is,” she said. “Approaching a half-naked stranger and asking for a photograph is not the easiest thing I have ever done. But, in some ways, the thrill and risk of it makes it all the more exciting.”