The pre-selfie age! Stunning images show Americans kicking back on vacation through the 1970s and 80s when life was ‘a little bit more free’

  • The golden age of beach parties and muscle cars has been brought to life in decades-old snaps
  • Photographer Mitch Epstein has re-animated how Americans lived when life ‘was a little bit more free’ 
  • Questionable mullets and era-defining wardrobes leave no question over the era these snaps are illustrating

Nostalgic photographs from the 1970s and 80s have revealed how Americans partied when life was ‘a little bit more free’. 

Back in the pre-selfie age when smartphones were unheard of, families flocked to the nation’s hotspots and revelers danced the night away without care.

And while beaches were packed with sun-soaked swimmers and streets roared with muscle cars, photographer Mitch Epstein was on the scene to capture it all. 

The electric pictures, which bring back the golden days from every corner of America, can be found in Manhattan’s Yancey Richardson Gallery until April 8. 

Sun-soaked beach goers are seen living in the moment on a beach in Queens, New York, enjoying the blue skies without a smartphone in sight

Classic cars and family road trips are added throughout the collection as a reminder of how Americans enjoyed a vacation back in the day

For 50 years, Epstein has collated a huge stockpile of classic snaps that will transport viewers to a rose-tinted time. 

Titled ‘Recreation’, his latest exhibit offers detailed, full-color depictions of celebrations and frivolity from decades past, dating between 1973 and 1988. 

Speaking recently about the gallery, Epstein noted the work ‘came out of my excitement about pictures, being out in the world, in places where people were engaging with different kinds of leisure activities. 

‘The world itself was less self-conscious. It was pre-digital… There was something more free about it.’

Hit the dancefloor! Viewers that enjoyed a night on the town during their 80s heyday may see themselves in the exhibition

A sign of the times: Questionable hairstyles and funky outfits are on full display in ‘Recreation’, including this snap of youngsters cramming themselves into an elevator in Dallas

A candid snapshot of acrobats in Santa Monica from over four decades ago depicts how Americans enjoyed themselves without technology 

The energy-filled photographs capture the essence of the ‘Age of Greed’, when mullets and cold beers could be found wherever you went. 

But while many of the photographs depict vivid nights on the town, Epstein’s poignant work captures more than just fun. 

In one particularly touching snap from the streets of New York, US Army veterans in a Vietnam War parade are seen daubed in uniform surrounded by their brothers in arms. 

Binocular-touting tourists in Montana’s Glacier National Park and RV-driving families are also included to help recall how Americans let their hair down back in the day. 

As one of the few photographers working with color in the 1970s, Epstein’s highly saturated palette reanimates the times in ways not normally seen. 

While a student at Cooper Union in New York City, Epstein’s professor, the influential photographer Garry Winogrand, told him, ‘Put color film in the camera. Forget about the fact that you have color.’

Recalling the advice, Epstein added: ‘It became part of my language. The world is in color, so why not photograph in color. It was really that simple.’

Epstein’s work is more than just vacations and sunny days – including this poignant picture of US Army veterans in a Vietnam War parade in New York City, in uniform surrounded by their brothers in arms

Iconic American family life, complete with era-defining wardrobes and pre-technology devices, are on full display at the exhibit 

Binocular-touting tourists studying mountainous vistas in Glacier National Park, Montana, offer the archetypal look back at the American holiday 

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