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The Super-Tan World Of 1960s Coney Island

Photographer Aaron Rose explores the intimacy of public space on a crowded beach.

Photographer Aaron Rose spent summers in the early 1960s wandering the crowded sands of Coney Island Beach. There, the native New Yorker snapped profiles of swimmers and sunbathers seeking a brief escape from the heat of the city.

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These snapshots of sweet, sweaty moments are now on view for the first time at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit’s title, “In a World of Their Own,” aptly characterizes the sensation his work evokes of peeking in on private experiences of a summer beach day.


Rose’s unobtrusive, documentarian style of photography captures the unguarded intimacy on display at the beach–people sleeping, embracing, tanning with bathing suits pulled down–as well as the showmanship associated with one of the only public spaces where it’s socially acceptable to be near-naked. He used chromogenic color prints–at the time a relatively new technology–to give his photos the burnished look of a hot day in the sun.

In a World of Their Own shows New Yorkers in an unusually carefree environment, pushing the bounds of privacy,” says Susan Henshaw Jones, the museum’s director. “Rose’s photographs capture the vibrant and diverse mix of races, ethnicities, genders, and body types that create the city of New York: a literal ‘sun baked melting pot.’”

Grab your sunscreen. The series is on display at the Museum of the City of New York between May 9 and August 3.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.

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