Focal Point, Erik Melvin | Skaters at the beach in sunset at LA. Photo by Erik Melvin

Focal Point: Erik Melvin’s idealised vision of LA beach life

Words by Ollie Horne
Last updated: November 27, 2023

Photographer Erik Melvin’s candid, carefree beach photography captures surfing and skateboarding communities in Los Angeles

As an outsider who grew up in Ohio and lived in New York City before moving to the West Coast five years ago, Los Angeles-based photographer Erik Melvin captures the city from an idealised standpoint, reconnecting with what he imagined LA to be like when he was growing up. “One of my favourite subjects is carefree youth, which is what I always thought California was all about,” he says. “I love capturing new things, and surfers and skaters in particular were very new to me when I moved to LA.”

Melvin’s images are bathed in a golden, honeyed light, taken either early in the morning or just before sunset, imbuing a nostalgic atmosphere to the beachside scenes. “I love photographing people, first and foremost. I have a theatre background and love fashion, so the idea of ‘characters’ and talking to new people brings me joy,” he says. “I always seek to capture something real, a proper candid moment, with magic light, quirky symmetry, and a dash of timelessness. If it’s more about the place, I generally try to go unnoticed and keep moving. As soon as someone notices me framing up a shot, I move on.”

Outside of his candid beach photography, Melvin is also an in-demand fashion and portrait photographer, and has worked with Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Rita Ora, Michelle Obama and the NYC Ballet, to name a few. “Whatever the work, I hope people feel a sense of escapism, joy, a fresh vantage point, wonder, and a bit of sexiness in my photos,” he says.

Focal Point, Erik Melvin | A figure walking along the coast in LA. Photo by Erik MelvinFocal Point, Erik Melvin | A figure in the foreground and the background by the coast in LA during a red sunset. Photo by Erik Melvin
Focal Point, Erik Melvin | A black and white image of a surfer in LA. Photo by Erik Melvin
Focal Point, Erik Melvin | A black and white silhouette of a skater in LA. Photo by Erik MelvinFocal Point, Erik Melvin | A detail of a skater's feet on a skateboard. Photo by Erik Melvin

Focal Point, Erik Melvin | Skaters on the coastal skate park in LA. Photo by Erik Melvin

Focal Point, Erik Melvin | A palm tree to the bottom left of the image in the foreground of a cityscape of Los Angeles in the distance, in a yellow sunset haze. Photo by Erik Melvin

Focal Point, Erik Melvin | A skater runs with her board in her hand, while a shadow of another skater is cast on the wall behind her. Photo by Erik Melvin

Focal Point, Erik Melvin | Skaters silhouetted against the Pacific Ocean as the red sun dips towards the horizon through a bank of blue grey cloud. Photo by Erik Melvin
Focal Point, Erik Melvin | Skaters silhouetted against the ocean in a yellow haze. Photo by Erik Melvin
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