The studio shot 8 models over the course of 4 weeks and 3 trips to Fire Island in the late summer. In the year of the pandemic, it was the only shooting we did and with thousands of raw images to cull and edit, it was conceived as a project that would fill the long days of isolation in the Covid winter ahead. It did.
We had only a few remaining warm weeks to work after New York came out of its initial lockdown. The rapidity with which the summer drew to a close cut short a planned fourth trip. We went from frolicking in the surf in early August to "too-cold-to-go-into-the-ocean" 4 weeks later at Labor Day.
The late summer sun was already quite low on the horizon and by midafternoon the light and shadows were taking on the hues of the imminent golden hour.
For a non-beach-going person like me, how different the light and the surf appeared each time we arrived at the beach was striking. It was never the same. We had brown sand mixed with a pounding surf under a gauzy yellow sky; calm green waters under blue skies and white clouds; a hazy, sunless morning and the amber hues of late afternoon sun. We saw it all in the space of three August and September mornings and afternoons.
Our excursions left New York City around 7AM and returned in the early evening. Twice we shot with models that were already spending the summer on the island and on each trip we had at least one first-time-on-Fire Island model.
For the uninitiated, Fire Island is the renowned gay summer resort on a long, narrow barrier island off the southern shore of Long Island, about 50 miles east of Manhattan. The year-round population of the island is less than 300, spread across a handful of small communities that dot the island. That populations
In the second half of the 20th centuiry, two villages become known as havens for the gay and lesbian communities. In the brief period between Stonewall and AIDS, Fire Island became synonymous with drug-and-sex-drenched parties filled with young models and wealthy movers-and-shakers. It was the ultimate expression of the hedonism and excesses of the pre-AIDS era.
The Pines, the newest and most affluent community of several on the long barrier island, is predominantly gay. It is separated from Cherry Grove, an older prewar village with a large lesbian community, by a half mile of wild dunes and beaches. In the tangled wooded area above the beaches is the infamous Meat Rack, a stretch of dunes where nudity and public sex are defining characteristics.
Working on Fire Island during a global pandemic was relatively easy in terms of adhering to social distancing protocols; witnessing the effects of the pandemic on the resort community was harder. The beaches were exceptionally empty, as were the dunes where we worked. The summer population was a fraction of its usual level and businesses were shuttered or struggling. Happily, most of the bars and restaurants were offering a form of limited service in their ample outdoor spaces. At the end of 6-hour shooting days, we had a place to nurse sunburns and daquiris while waiting for the ferry back to the mainland.
Three new galleries accompany this post, one for each of the models, Conor, Jacob and Harry. Click on their photos to enter the galleries. The first Fire Island set appeared last fall, with Joshua, Camilo and Alex. The final models, Steven and Cristian, will arrive next month along with a new photo essay featuring all eight models.