Anyone who has ever been to a city beach will recognise it as a place that brings out a different kind of behaviour to far-flung beaches populated by relaxed holiday-makers – maybe because many city dwellers use them as an outdoor extension for things they would normally do behind closed doors – in a gym, say, or a club. For the Catalan photographer Lluis Artus, Barcelona's two-and-a-half miles of beach front excites for this very reason. "I went there for a long summer break in 2007, after 10 years of living in London," he says. What he found was a pulsating beach life where "people spent whole days on the sand exercising, relaxing or going on the pull. I thought it offered a great show of culture."
His photo series "La Platja" ("The Beach") provides a vivid collection of portraits he has taken on the Barcelona strip over the past four years, ranging, as seen here, from sculpted Brazilian boys hawking tickets to a local club night, to a Russian visitor parading his pooch and a duo of sun-bronzed Catalonians surveying their environment. "I was not looking to create caricatures," says Artus – rather, he wished to capture a view of Barcelona beach life rich in idiosyncratic flourishes and gameful poses.
For Artus, these shots also illustrate how a short stretch of land can be a great social leveller. "The beach makes everybody more equal," he says. "When you're half-naked, most signs of your social status disappear – which makes the beach a rather democratic place."
For more from the series: luisartus.com