Jen Ezpeleta

Tilling the pier: Half a century of Manhattan Beach Pier photos by John Post

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John Post has been photographing the Manhattan Beach pier for half a century. A collection of his pier photos has been recently published

January 1, 2000, on the first day of the new year, new century and new millennium. Photo by John Post

by Kevin Cody

Shortly after returning to Manhattan Beach from Vietnam, in 1969, 21-year-old John Post photographed a mirror reflection of the Manhattan Beach pier from his small, 9th Street apartment, half a block up from the beach. He took the photo with a Pentax, the poor man’s Nikon. 

Though Post was studying photography on the GI Bill at El Camino College, he could not have known that, half a century later, that photo would be the first of over 100 photos to appear in his recently published coffee table book, “Manhattan Beach Pier: Portrait of a Pier through a Lifetime of Photography.”

“Portrait of a Pier’s” early, 1970s photos are black and white and somber. In 1979, when Post began shooting color, his images took on a more celebratory tone.

But the most moving are the milestone photos: The Olympic Torch passing the pier on its way to the Los Angeles Coliseum torch lighting by Rafer Johnson. Manhattan 10K runners rounding the Roundhouse Aquarium in 1987, before the pier was condemned. Demolition of the old pier in 1990. The pier reopening celebration in 1992, seen from a helicopter. Residents gathered at the pier in 2000 to celebrate the “new year, new century, new millenium.” Residents gathered at the pier in 2012 to celebrate the pier’s centennial.

In between are sunsets, storms and slices of life. 

Lifeguard Mike Cunningham is caught surfing a left at the pier in a 1977 black and white photo, and a right at the pier in a 1993 color photo. The mirror images, distanced by nearly two decades, were an accident, Post said. But it is the type of accident that has a sense of inevitability for someone committed to a place.

“An artist never needs more than an acre of land in a lifetime to never run out of good subject matter and good art,” Post said. He claims the quote is apocryphal. 

Copies of “A Tribute: Portrait of a Pier Through a Lifetime of Photography” are $85 now through Christmas at the John Post Gallery, 808 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach. And online at JohnPost.com. ER

“Sunday morning.” Photo by John Post

 

Lifeguard Mike Cunningham at the Manhattan Beach pier in 1977. Photo by John Post

 

John Post signing ‘Manhattan Beach Pier”outside his downtown Manhattan Beach gallery (following pandemic protocol) for Manhattan Beach resident Ibrahim Mohammed, who became a Post fan after seeing his work at the Hermosa Beach Fiesta in 2018. Photo by Kevin Cody

 

 

 

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