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Black & White Vintage Coastal Wall Art

Updated: 6 days ago

Vintage Photographs Evoke Emotion

Vintage photos from by-gone eras are ALWAYS a fun addition to your wall space. Black & white images are a nice juxtaposition of an old-and yet somehow-modern look when done correctly. Nostalgic yearning for an innocence of another time and carefree days are prevalent in many of the classic coastal images that we love to embrace.

Two boys at Rockaway beach on a good humor truck vintage photograph.
One of our personal family favorites evokes all the old-time summertime feels.

Does seeing vintage photographs of old-time friends frolicking on the beach bring back your own fond memories of annual summer vacations with extended family or friends? Do you have your own treasured heirloom coastal shots like we do?

Or how about a special moody and artistic littoral shot? Maybe showcasing the power of the sea? Or perhaps featuring nature's souvenirs saved in remembrance of a beloved vacation spot?

Whatever your memories of moments by the sand and surf, it’s that pure sense of timelessness in old photos that brings back the sights, sounds and aromas of those good ‘ole days.

We think that could be what draws us so strongly to the use of vintage black and white images on the walls of our homes. Without the rainbow of colors that could be part of a composition, black and white photographs are stripped down to help us concentrate on the emotional aesthetic of the piece.

Vintage coastal black and white photography wall art of a boat.
Small yet mighty & ready to set sail.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite Vintage Coastal Photography wall art, along with a few pieces that have been given a painted effect, to see what emotional connections they bring to you.

Inside Vintage Photos:

As we’re sure you know, black and white photography was the only option when cameras were first invented, and they went from being shot on metal plates, to glass, then film, and of course, the digital photography we all love. For decades, most photos were your basic black and white or sepia, and a small percentage were colorized using chalks, colored pencils or oil paints. Often photos from the second half of the 1800’s and even some into the 1950's were formal portraits, and backgrounds were prefabricated to make it look like the people were sitting in a fancy music room or even on a honeymoon train. Not many impromptu shots of people just having fun!

Vintage black and white photography of honeymoon couple on train.
All aboard! Love is timeless.

Black & White Vintage Coastal Wall Art part two

Photographers hit the beach

Fast forward a bit, and photographers started hitting the beach in earnest! Early on, more formal coastal wear, backgrounds (many times prefabricated), and much more prim and proper posing were en vogue...but still, not much impromptu photography. (Think of those early shots of beachgoers from the late 1800’s in their woolen ‘bathing costumes,’ that were more like dresses than bathing suits. Here's a wall decor piece shot in the early 1900's ( of a boat captain with Coney Island lifeguards), where the the men were total posers, bearing a smidge more skin than their onlookers.

As restrictions began to drop, the humor and lightness in photos was more apparent. Eras came and went, and bathing suits transitioned from wool to cotton to knit, and finally to synthetic fibers. They began to reveal more and conceal less. For a vision of how far we’ve come with bathing attire, picture this. Back in 1907, Annette Kellerman, the Olympic swimmer, was arrested for wearing a one-piece suit that exposed her arms and legs! And believe it or not, men were actually under bathing attire constraints back in the day as well. They were restricted from ‘going topless’ until the late 1930’s. But by the 40’s, both men and women were permitted to expose more flesh.

And by the mid 1950’s, maybe after shortages during the war, and maybe because people were looking for a little more joy in living, that certain joie de vivre translated into the ooh, la la…you guessed it…bikini!

Here is a sampling of Black & White Vintage Coastal Wall Art featuring some not so itsy bitsy teeny weeny samples of beachwear...displayed in pretty poses by these1950's models, on the beach:

On the dock...

Sunning poolside...

And having a ball...!

Beach fashions have exploded over the years and have become a massive trend that continues to evolve even today. Here's another model beachgoer:

Vintage coastal black and white photograph wall art of a woman with a spot color sun hat.
Stylish sun protection is always a good idea.

And one of our all-time favorite images...a perfect example of the great lines, shape and simplicity of powerful graphics:

Vintage coastal black and white photograph wall art  of 1950's swimsuit models.
Your guests will flip out over these 1950's swimsuit models!

All the World’s a Sunny Day

As limitations in bathing attire were tossed aside like your beach cover up on a hot day, the boundaries of photography changed as well. While color photography was still somewhat rare in the 1960’s, mostly because of the cost, by the 70’s, Kodachrome helped us see “all the world’s a sunny day” like Simon & Garfunkel claimed. Color photography (mostly slides at first) eventually became available to the masses, and photography started capturing a whole lotta fun. Inexpensive Polaroids, Kodak Brownies and Instamatics meant that everyone could now create their own personal stories (coastal or otherwise).


Today, with our world view that everything old is new again, black and white photography is often considered a fine art. It’s perceived as being more interactive than color images, as it invites the viewer to creatively interpret and imagine much more about the piece. Elements like shadow and light, composition and contrasts, capturing movement or the lack thereof, textures and shapes, shades of gray or monochrome are all examples of things that can contribute to the mood that the photographer is trying to convey. Whether the photography subject matter is lifestyle, landscape, nature or abstract, Vintage Coastal black and white imagery can elevate your wall decor with a fresh and interesting perspective.

Coastal black and white photograph wall art  by Max Dupain of a man laying on a beach.
Can't you just feel the warmth of the sun? Taking a sandy snooze....

Was this shot on the Cali coast...or maybe a Miami Beach?

Coastal black and white photograph wall art  of tall palm trees
Dreamy tropical sentinels keep watch.

Where do your future horizons lead?

Neptune's Gaze black and white coastal photography wall art of pier and pilings.
Ideal perch for Neptune's Gaze.

What emotions come up when you reflect on seasons that have come to a close...

Vintage coastal black and white photograph wall art  of Day's Cottages in Truro, MA on Cape Cod.
Another summer season come and gone.

Can you wash away old worries with the tides?

Vintage coastal black and white photograph wall art  of a pair of waves.
Gentle waves lull you to a perfect slumber.

Black and white Vintage Coastal photography captures the essence of eras gone by, what was beautiful about the world then, and the breezy reverie that can be captured and brought onto the walls of your home. So think about adding a little spirited Vintage Coastal wall decor to your home, giving a nod to the past, while living mindfully in the present, and dreaming of a joyful future.

Stay Sunny,


Nancy & Kellie

Graffi*tee Studios

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