Contemporary Suburbium: We Spoke To Ed And Deanna Templeton About Their Latest Book


Huntingdon Beach is the fourth largest city in Southern California’s Orange County, an urban sprawl of tract housing and beach cottages some forty minutes drive from downtown Los Angeles that prides itself as one of the West coast’s surf capitals. It has also been the childhood home and artistic meditation of photographer couple Ed and Deanna Templeton, whose early memories are coloured by its sun-soaked sidewalks and humming surf culture. Their new book, ‘Contemporary Suburbium’, beautifully produced on double-sided leporello bound pages, presents a linear documentary of life on the peripheries of a metropolis. Like two contrasting coming of age tales based on the same place yet told through different lenses, the photographs explore the soul of this traditionally conservative and predominantly white city. From its disaffected youth to the many thousands of holiday makers that pass through its sunbaked streets each year, it’s an ethnographic record of modern day suburbia and the mindset that accompanies it. We spoke to Ed and Deanna about their earliest memories, why they like shooting together and their love of piers.

FINN BLYTHE: How did you both first meet?

ED TEMPLETON: Deanna was best friends with Jason Lee’s girlfriend, I was skating most days with Jason. One day we ditched school to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in LA, and Jason’s girl friend brought Deanna along. That’s when we first met.

DEANNA TEMPLETON: Ed and Jason really just wanted to skate around in LA. So they skated and I bought Ed a soda because he looked thirsty and when he looked up to say thank you I just fell in love. I mean who could resist those beautiful green eyes, braces and zits?

FB: What are your earliest memories of growing up in Huntingdon Beach?

DT: Well I was born there, so mine might be when I went I was moving out of my baby crib to a big girl bed.

ET: We moved to HB in 1983, I remember starting to skateboard with both my feet together up and down the sidewalk. It was such a surf/skate type of place. I remember Main Street downtown being kinda scary, super “locals only vibe.” Lots of fights happened.

FB: Your new book references a kind of withdrawal and blissful isolation that comes with growing up in the suburbs. Is that something you’ve only come to appreciate later or was there an envy/longing for the big city at the time?

DT: We have been fortunate enough to travel and in doing so it has opened my eyes to be appreciate where I live. But we do think about moving to a bigger city all the time.

ET: Yeah like Deanna said, I think seeing the world through photographic eyes has trained us to see what we could be taking for granted since we grew up here in a new way. I try to see where we live as if I was from another country. We both hate the idea of spending our whole lives here.

FB: How has Huntingdon Beach changed over the course of both your lifetimes?

DT: I’m not sure it has!

ET: It totally has! The mentality, no, she’s right. But Huntington Beach is turning into Miami. There’s resorts sprouting up, and shopping centers, and high-end beach adjacent housing. Starbucks And Jamba Juice. The old surf shop vibe is gone and a family friendly entertainment vibe is there now.


FB: How do your respective visions of Huntingdon Beach differ from one another?

ET: In many ways our visions are no different. But in photographic terms she is more selective than me and careful about what she shoots. I see something worth shooting almost everywhere. She is patient and chooses her photos more wisely.

DT: I agree with what Ed said. It’s just basically our approach’s are different.

FB: Is the same upbringing you had still a possibility for children of today or has it been subsumed by the encroaching metropolis?

ET: The childhood we had is gone for every person now because cell phones have changed everything. But a child can still find skateboarding and a creative community and the adventures that a place like HB offer to some extent.

DT: I think it would be difficult to bring a child up the way we were raised. Just like I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to be raised the way my parents were. I would think that for every next generation the possibilities grow greater. Of course some things get lost, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but you can’t stop growing.

FB: I love the layout of the new book. How do your respective styles inform one another? Do you shoot together?

ET: Thanks! Yes we shoot together 95% of the time. I learn from her patience, and we help each other out when shooting.

DT: Yes, thank you. I try to learn from Ed to look further down the road, to be prepared for anything that might happen. I noticed that Ed applies a lot of what he does from skating down a street to his photography practice. That he’s constantly looking a head. He has to be ready if something presents itself to skate or if people are in the way he will have to make adjustments to not run into them.


FB: Why did you choose to shoot the book in black and white?

ET: I shoot in b&w because I enjoy the timelessness of it. Also because of practicality, we can print b&w negs in our home darkroom. Color is either garish or dull and rarely does it work how I would prefer. B&w removes all those variables and streamlines everything down to shape and form.

DT: Also because the printing of this book had to be in all B&W.

ET: Oh and that!

FB: Can you tell us a little about your interest in piers?

ET: It’s just a proximity thing! We live here so shooting on the pier fell into our lap. But I do love taking pier walks truthfully. A sidewalk out over the ocean is a lovely idea, and I love the sights, smells, sea life, and everything.

DT: And don’t forget about the chances of seeing whales!

Contemporary Suburbium is available for purchase at Claire de Rouen




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