Beachcomber, photography, Mulranny, Ireland

Every photographer should also be a beachcomber. Or a regular visitor to flea markets. Or a connoisseur of auction houses. Because everywhere, chance finds and hidden treasures are literally waiting to be discovered. My favourite example is this prehistoric implement, which I found washed up on an Irish beach.

And all you need to do is train your eye.

This approach can equally be applied to photography, where you recognise the exceptional rather than attempt to create it from scratch or through applying pre-existing expectations.  

It’s simply a case of you will know it when you find it…

The historical origins of the word “Beachcomber”

The first appearance of the word “beachcombers” in print was in Herman Melville’s Omoo (1847). It described a population of Europeans who lived in South Pacific islands, “combing” the beach and nearby water for flotsam, jetsam, or anything else they could use or trade. When a beachcomber became totally dependent upon coastal fishing for his sustenance, or abandoned his original culture and set of values, then the term “beachcomber” was synonymous with a criminal, a drifter, or a bum. While the vast majority of beachcombers were simply unemployed sailors, however may choose to live in Pacific island communities; as described by Herman Melville in Typee, or Harry Franck in the book Vagabonding Around the World.

Modern usage

Many modern beachcombers follow the “drift lines” or “tide lines” on the beach and are interested in the (mostly natural) objects that the sea casts up. For these people, “beachcombing” is the recreational activity of looking for and finding various curiosities that have washed in with the tide: seashells of every kind, fossils, pottery shards, historical artifacts, sea beans (drift seeds), sea glass (beach glass) and driftwood. Items such as lumber, plastics, and all manner of things that have been lost or discarded by seagoing vessels will be collected by some beachcombers, as long as the items are either decorative or useful in some way to the collector. (However, this usually does not include the great bulk of marine debris, most of which is neither useful nor decorative.) Edmund James Banfield is an example of the modern beachcomber in his residence on Dunk Island in the early twentieth century where he studied and wrote about the vegetation, bird and sea life of the island.

Assertional information: Wikipedia