/04 Traces

Douglas Ljungkvist

Ocean Beach

Having vacationed several times at Ocean Beach in the 90’s (NJ) I had long wanted to return and photograph there. The cottages, some might say, are nothing more than glorified trailers, laid out in a symmetrical grid over three sections that total over 2,000 units.

Little has changed at Ocean Beach since it was constructed in the late 40’s offering working class families affordable vacation rentals or ownership, next to wealthy beach communities like Bay Head and Mantoloking. The streets, still made up of sand in Unit III, adds to the sparse and strong sense of place. There is little vegetation that thrives in this environment made up of sand, wind, and salt.

Photographing there in the off season offers a surreal feeling in its quietness and allows me to de-contextualize the cottages from their vacation purpose. From a formal perspective, colors, geometric shapes, and spatial relationships are studied. Here color helps to create individuality among uniformity. Emotionally, there are strong sub-texts of memory, identity, and time.

The interiors have hardly any personal items or decorations creating an abstract time stamp and few clues as to who the owners are. This meets my interest in creating images open for interpretation. Most cottages are rented by the owners on a weekly basis in the summer thus making them into semi-public spaces, similar to hotel rooms.

The bedrooms are utilitarian in nature and minimal in size. I am drawn to the horizontal windows that match the camera frame but won’t hold an air conditioning unit. This project is a personal journey and study of a unique place in the American landscape that appeals to my vernacular taste, intuitive work process, and sense of style and order.