Ocean Beach

The Outer Sunset, San Francisco

Tom Zimberoff
6 min readJun 25, 2022


All photographs ©2022–2024 Tom Zimberoff

The liminal interface of seawater, sand, and sky inspires a construct of consciousness, the space in which everything appears, the light by which everything is seen. It beckons my camera.

Throughout my career, I have focused primarily on portraits, still lifes of people. That, in a nutshell, is how I define portraiture. Once in a while, I’d point my lens at a landscape, seldom before at the sea.

I used to think of the beach as a background. Now it’s a theme. With a fresh eye, the upshot of my fifteen-year-long hiatus from photography, and given the proximity of my Outer Sunset neighborhood to Ocean Beach in San Francisco, I’ve discovered a rhythmic confluence of color and time that pulls me in like a riptide. As evanescent as it is powerful, this phenomenon can only be depicted with the unblinking eye of a camera adjusted to thwart its mechanical intent to stop time.

As paradoxical as it might seem, the most visually appealing characteristics of movement for me, notwithstanding dance, can only be seen when arrested and confined within the two-dimensional frame of a photograph. With that in mind, I can combine two techniques to achieve a singular illusion. One freezes time; the other melts it. The only other way to see this dissolution of boundaries in real time is with psychedelics.