Montauk is a place one seems to have heard of but doesn’t know quite why — probably by osmosis from American TV shows. Ben Watts describes the town as “paradise three hours outside the walls of the greatest city in the world”, and that city is New York City. If Montauk was once a well-kept secret, the secret is out, and life in the holiday getaway has changed completely in the 18 years that London-born Watts has called the place home.
Watts has had camera in hand for the duration of his time in Montauk, documenting the evolution from a sleepy hamlet with a handful of shops and restaurants to a fashionable retreat from the city. The reasons for its rise in popularity are the same reasons that keep Watts — an established commercial and fashion photographer — entranced: the colour, the light, the people. Montauk Dreaming is Watts’ latest monograph, and Milk Gallery is hosting an exhibition featuring images from the book which focus on the artist’s downtime and days off spent with famous faces and locals alike, alongside a selection from his 30-year career. Mostly shot with an iPhone and Watts’ own app and filters, the images radiate the near-hallucinatory saturated tones of high summer. The show, Wattsup Montauk: Photography by Ben Watts, runs until 11 July at the West15th Street venue.