Australia is synonymous with Kangaroos, the Outback, Fosters Beer and the beach. Whilst in Melbourne, the country's second most populous city, you won't find many Kangaroos hopping down the streets. The Outback is further away than Detroit is to New York, or Milan is to London. Nobody, and I mean nobody drinks Fosters - to be honest, I couldn't even tell you where to buy it. We don't have the tropical climate of the likes of Sydney or Brisbane, but we still do have beaches. St. Kilda is the place to be seen, Bells is world renowned for it's surfing, but Brighton is undoubtedly the most photogenic.
Dendy Street Beach
The seaside suburb of Brighton is one of Melbourne's most affluent and has a long history as a beachfront destination. Therefore, Dendy Street Beach has always been the place to be. It isn't necessarily the easiest beach to get to, but it is undoubtedly the most iconic and photographed beach in Melbourne. And with good reason too.
With the Central Business District only 13kms away, the beach affords great views of the City. There's always a flurry of activity that transpires the shores of Dendy Street. From windsurfers catching air along the bay to locals jogging or walking their dogs. Families build sandcastles, and children of all ages partake in frozen delights from the ice-cream van. But the main attraction is the Beach Boxes.
Brighton Beach Boxes
The real drawcard to the Dendy Street Beach is the Brighton Beach Boxes: a collection of brightly painted wooden huts that line the foreshore. Each unique in their painted design, but they all follow the same rules: timer frame, weatherboard sides and a corrugated iron roof. The huts themselves have no electricity or plumbing, which seems a little rich when you realised they can sell for over $325,000AUD ($250,000USD €235,000).
Once upon a time, in a more prudish era, the beach boxes were used to avoid any public indecency of bathers unrobing on the beach. Today they have become exclusive beach villas where children play as families sit and enjoy the magnificent bay views. Don't start dreaming about hanging any painting inside your own box, they're only for sale to rate paying residents of the surrounding community.
Because of their westward position, coming in the morning will means the huts are shrouded in their own shadow. The best time to photograph will be in the late afternoon to catch the ephemeral golden sun showering the boxes and giving them a dreamlike quality. Take note, it can get quite crowded. The quietest days to come are Mondays and Tuesdays.
Middle Brighton Baths
After shooting the Melbourne skyline during twilight, I had just enough time to hop across to the Middle Brighton Baths and enjoy a cocktail on their terrace. The baths themselves pair nicely with the Beach Houses as they were both born of the same epoch. When constructed in the late 19th century, mixed bathing was still a taboo. A red flag flew over the Baths while gentlemen enjoy a swim. Otherwise, a white flag flew during the middle of the day, indicating that the ladies have the run of the facility.
Perched above one of the few remaining open sea caged baths in Australia, the view across Port Phillip Bay was relaxing, as too was my 'Baths Sunset' cocktail: Cointreau, vodka, cranberry juice, orange juice, lime juice, soda all served in a Maison Jar. It was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful afternoon photographing Brighton.
To get to Brighton from Melbourne, simply catch the Sandringham line to Brighton Beach, and you'll be there in a little over 20min. Or take a photography tour with Aperture Tours to have a guided tour with a professional photographer to make sure you get your settings right and shoot a sure fire winner.
Author : Alexander J.E. Bradley
Alexander is the founder of Aperture Tours which run photography tours in Melbourne and across the globe. A professional photographer for over a decade, Alexander enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images.