California Girls

Picture a California girl. Sun-glossed, bikini-clad, her long blonde hair whipping in the wind that cuts down from the rocks along the Malibu coast. She turns, from the towel on which she kneels, salt and sand still clinging to her skin, and looks over her shoulder at you. Her gleaming eyes say: Welcome to paradise. They say, We are free here.

Now look again, this time through Ed or Deanna Templeton’s Leica lens. Here are the real girls of California, the ones loitering on the Huntington Beach pier where the Templetons, married for 25 years, take their daily stroll, cameras in hand. If the Beach Boys helped to imprint that archetypal California girl in the collective psyche, the Templetons are the duo who have done the most to complicate the image, revealing the grit and variety of the women who populate the beachside town they call home. Is this paradise? It is to these two Orange County natives who met as teenagers, when Ed was just starting his pro-skating career, and who have been inseparable ever since. Together, they shoot the denizens of Huntington Beach with an eye toward the real, and though there are slight differences in the tone of their images—Deanna dreamier, Ed a touch voyeuristic—what they share is an urge to reveal.

Their California girls are beautiful, but they’re also strong, or surly, or warped by the pressure to inhabit the dream so often touted by America’s golden coast. The lissome pinup, beckoning you to the shore, is replaced by the skater girl with chopped hair; the Latinx girl posing in her purple quinceañera dress; the muscular surfer girl, fresh from the waves, and holding up a board emblazoned with a message from God that could either be an invitation or a threat. Welcome to paradise.

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Chris Alexakisart