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Skegness Beach, summer of 1999, by Tom Pilston

Alan Sparrow introduces this month’s image

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside… as we can see from this photograph taken in the summer of 1999 by the Independent Newspaper photographer Tom Pilston. 

When the picture editor asks you to illustrate a feature about staycations, I am sure they would never expect to be handed this little gem.  Three generations enjoy the beach at Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast. This picture is included in the top 30 images taken by the photographers of the Independent in the past three decades. Pilston has three in the collection. 

The beach scene has great appeal: The activity with the ball, the interest by the rest of the family as one of the members is covered in sand by the bucket wielding adult, the fidgety youngster on the left, and the prospect of an end to the fun on the sand as our eye is caught by the threatening skies and the possibility of rain. 

It is a holiday picture that could come from any family album. The pleasure of examining the wallet of prints retrieved from the chemists with your holiday snaps or handing the wallet around for others to share is an experience known only to a certain generation.  The camera became the traveller’s friend from the early days of photography.

The oldest surviving image was made around 1826 by Joseph Nicephore Niepce. The street scene at Saint Loup de Varennes, in France, taken from a window - the first of what could be considered a travel photograph. Taken in daylight it required an eight-hour exposure. 

Today's photographer just reaches for the mobile phone, and it is estimated that over 1.4 trillion photos will be taken this year, over 90% on mobile phones*, and the numbers are expected to increase. Only around 7% will be taken on a digital camera. A survey of 2,008 adults conducted by the peer-to-peer currency exchange platform WeSwap found that 29% of people  would veto a holiday destination if they were unable to post about it on social media, while 31% of millennials said that posting their holiday photos online is just as important as the holiday itself. 

Tom Pilston joined the Independent on Sunday in 1989 and worked for the paper and its sister the Independent until 2007 when he decided to pursue a freelance career. His travels took him to Bosnia, Burma, Kosovo, and Sudan. 

He is a regular contributor to Oxfam, Christian Aid, and UNICEF and he has won awards from Nikon, Amnesty International World Press Photo awards and the Picture Editors Guild.

More masterpieces from the art of photojournalism can be seen at Fleet Streets Finest


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