The things you see on Brighton Beach on a Sunday morning at sun rise

The sun rises over Brighton beach around 5am during the spring and summer months. I am there for a Sunday morning but the revellers are there still for Saturday night. Along with the revellers you can find the die hard swimmers tiptoeing down the shingle for their early morning swim entirely unaware of both the bitingly cold temperature of the water and the sprawling hedonism around them. It is, truly, a wonderful place to be. There is a sense of collectivism and love and its hard to know if the groups of people sitting on the beach are formed on the basis of long held friendships or simply the result of being caught up in the moment, of the shared experience of simply being there as the sun rises.

As an observer of these groups, it’s hard to know if you are yourself an outsider invading someone else’s space. The fact that I am there for Sunday morning and not Saturday night and I am on my own, does seem to set me to one side. I don’t know if the apparent intrusion of a man with camera will compromise this project but I am happy to find out. Last summer, I spent a few early morning talking with different groups, sharing ideas, photographing their moments. This has inspired me to create this new project, which I will work on over the summer. I want to capture the moments that make this time and place so special. I will be heading down on a Sunday morning whenever I can, aiming to arrive just before sunrise. I'll try to become part of the scene but I know that this will be difficult.

As for this image, a lot of people have asked me how I got it, was it staged, was it chance, what’s the story with the characters in the frame. I don’t want to spoil the magic and charm of the picture by explaining it; I think that it explains itself more than enough. Part of the skill I have been trying to learn is the ability to coax an image into life. Jane Bown was famous for saying that she doesn’t take pictures she makes them and that’s kind of what I was trying to do here. I had a sense that this couple wanted to do something outrageous and I simply coaxed that feeling out of them. Life is all around us but a lot of it remains hidden. If you can engage with people in a way that lets them open up and show you what they really feel inside, like for instance some latent desire to get naked in public, then that’s not staged, that’s spontaneous. And if one of their friends happens to get in on the action because they are also in the moment, a moment that was a strong mixture of happiness and sadness, a goodbye party before the friends parted to return home to Spain, then who am I to stop him?