A Tale of Montauk and Naked Women

A FEW years ago, a long-haired, bearded Montauk fisherman who goes by Bo-Bo spray-painted a message across his battered pickup truck: ''Tourons, Go Home!'' The large letters merged ''tourist'' and ''moron'' into one very unambiguous statement. The chamber of commerce was indignant, but other residents cheered whenever the truck rumbled by. Thus Montauk's struggle with its evolution from fishing village to beach resort, a struggle that is decades old, played out once more.

Bo-Bo's movable graffiti does not appear in a popular new book of photography, ''The End: Montauk, N.Y.,'' by Michael Dweck. But he and dozens of other Montauk residents, especially those who surf at Ditch Plains Beach, do. ''The End'' refers to Montauk's position at the easternmost tip of Long Island, and its reputation for being a fine place to stagnate, if one is so inclined.

Perhaps that was why the $75 art book's first printing of 5,000 copies sold out in less than three weeks. (And a second printing of 2,500 copies is expected to do the same, according to the publisher, Harry N. Abrams.) Or maybe the locals portrayed in it and those who know a local have been snapping them up. Or maybe it's just all those topless young women, photographed in the dreamy, black-and-white manner of Abercrombie & Fitch or Calvin Klein ads, who cavort through the book for the sake of art.

''I see that part of Montauk as being a very hedonistic lifestyle, where your good looks are your currency,'' Mr. Dweck said in a telephone interview. He sidestepped the question of whether the naked women were hired models, saying ''some were local, some transient.''

At once nostalgic and cunningly commercial, ''The End'' purports to reminisce about all that Montauk has lost since the 1970's when Mr. Dweck, who lives in Glen Cove, first found it. Gone are some of the oddball characters who gave the hamlet its eccentric reputation. Gone are the marlin fishermen and the marlin, too. Also gone is the private haven that Ditch Plains Beach once was for surfers. Mr. Dweck's version of the history of surfing at Ditch -- as the locals call it -- is the core of his coffee-table book.

Photos of those who surfed there in the summer of 2002, when he shot most of the photos, are juxtaposed against others of the now-middle-age surfers who discovered Ditch in the 1970's and earlier. Ditch is reportedly still one of the best point breaks on the East Coast. When the swell is up, he said, a dozen men and women may be found in the parking lot squeezing into their wetsuits at 6 or 7 a.m. Mr. Dweck said the nudes were, for him, just a byproduct of surfing.

But nudists and voyeurs be warned: despite the frequent appearance in the book of topless women with jutting hipbones, Ditch is really a family beach where PTA moms loudly discourage nudity.

Still, the oversize book has been a big seller.

John Brancati, who owns East End Books in East Hampton, said Mr. Dweck's June 19 book-signing there drew an unusually large crowd of 150 and that sales had been exceptional. Why? ''It's the local interest,'' he said. ''The work is beautiful. A lot of people are buying it because they know someone in it. Some are buying it because of the naked people.''

Bo-Bo, whose real name is Robert Bazoge, called the book a fantasy that denigrates locals by suggesting they aren't a worthy enough subject on their own, without nude models.

''We've got enough of those people out here with the wrong attitude, looking down on us,'' he said. ''It's only going to attract more of those uppity yuppities.''

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