Before she left for the season, Stephanie asked if I would photograph her garden, to try and capture that sense of adventure and mystery, as if seen through her pint-sized grandchildren’s eyes.
Though my visits were not exactly on my knees, one may visualize my peeking around corners, and peering through wild openings along the curvy garden path, as I stalked unicorns in my quest for a worthy photograph. On this particular afternoon, my sights were set on the full moon, soon to rise, at just the right spot, on the horizon, over a cut in the mangroves as the high tide came rolling in.
Which never really happened…darn clouds. It’s not a perfect world.
What I saw instead was an amazing bloom. It was like a pink ginger blossom, and upon a second, closer look, it revealed itself as a pineapple, that just so happened to be pink.
From 1880 - 1906 the Florida Keys were home to a booming pineapple growing and export business. Plantation Key is actually named after a pineapple plantation. The end came when Flagler’s railroad and railroad car ferries opened up access to the Cuban pineapple market, with it’s cheaper cost of labor.
It's only fitting this pink pineapple plant grows in the part of the Ocean Reef affectionately referred to as “Fantasy Island”, aka Sunrise Cay, a unique tropical land mass, once dreamt about, and now fully developed, all made possible by construction of the “Bridge to Nowhere”, whose span stretches over red mangroves and fish filled creeks.
It was here, one early morning during the winter of 2015, when my walking buddy Amy spotted a Florida panther at the Sunrise Cay end of the bridge. It is amazing how an endangered, wild creature could traverse hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, the river of grass and salt water creeks, from mainland Cracker Florida and the Everglades wilderness to North Key Largo, only to find itself in an enclave of wealth and pink pineapples. Though Amy was walking alone on that particular morning, I have no reason to doubt this Alabama gal and her “woodsy” trained eye, who knew with absolutely certainty what she had witnessed.
Just suppose, in a place where pineapples can be pink, maybe next time she’ll see a pink panther?
Now ~ A place and time.
We find ourselves.
Anyone remember what it was like to be 17? Or perhaps recall when your child was that age? It’s that time of unbridled optimism, when you think you can do just anything; a time before the reality of student loan debt sinks in.
My friend Betty asked if I’d be interested in talking to her 17 year old grandson Patrick about photography. He was coming to town to work on assignment, and maybe I could give him some tips or tricks. Let’s get this in perspective, Betty. More important would be my opportunity gain insight from him. What you say? You’ve been at this photography business for two of his lifetimes, and working on a third?
At this stage in my career, it is time to give back, to connect, to see life from a different perspective. On a tour through my studio and photo gallery, Patrick asked questions, a lot of it was about equipment, a photographers favorite topic. When he picked up a round prism, you could sense his excitement… yes, I said, you can borrow it, while at the same time thinking, can’t wait. Later he held it front of his lens and shot through it, focusing on the miniature and reverse image inside the glass.
Curiosity. The coolness of something old. You know what this is, holding up a plastic film canister. Yes, Patrick once saw one on YouTube. The broken film camera. He traveled to Florida with it, because it looked cool. It’s kinda weird, I had one just like it which worked; it had his name on it.
Like the old film camera, deep inside we all wish to remain relevant. What’s old is new again. We jump at the chance to check in with new ideas. A new challenge brings excitement to our work. Patrick really liked my body in motion series, which was inspired by the ORC Fitness center project. The interior designer’s concept of “movement”, inspired me to represent a passage of time in a still photo.
Patrick’s idea of movement involved shooting slow motion video, at 120 frames per second. While he “filmed” on the Sony mirrorless camera in total silence, my Nikon D4 definitely sounded more epic; like a rapid fire machine gun, recording individual images at 11 frames per second.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the moment while shooting, particularly when the music is playing, and the action is happening. But remember, the band is no longer playing when you later on review the photos. Or is it? In Patrick’s video, he’d time travel with the snap of his fingers, and there was definitely a soundtrack.
Since my background is of film, a much more deliberate medium, my first response to a beautiful sunrise, or an impressive site is, breathe. Say, Isn’t that a beautiful thing. Pause. Get the right perspective. There’s plenty of time to do it.
Just do it. That’s the shirt Patrick wore when we did the body in motion series of his backflips. He did them alright. Perhaps a dozen times. Until I got it right.
You see, my career has been a process, where one thing has led to the other, and challenges overcome along the way. Or to put it another way, my success is due to the very definition of “luck” : which occurs “when preparation meets opportunity.”
Good luck, Patrick.
Nothing represents the state of renewal more than the site of peony blooms bursting onto the scene in the summer.
I first met the peony during my artist residency at Vermont Studio Center, a remote retreat for visual artists, writers, printmakers and sculptors. They were everywhere ~ like bougainvillea in the Florida Keys ~ throughout the quaint town of Johnson, where peony bushes graced every yard. Louise had a garden full of them, tucked away between the Red Mill and the meditation room.
As resident at VSC, one is freed from the pressures and responsibilities of daily life, which provides unlimited time for artistic exploration and personal reflection. An artist with this opportunity is akin to the peony: all winter saving energy, to eventually exploding in the summer, with saturated colors, from deep crimson red, shades of pink and fuchsia, to subtle white with a nuance of peach. I was in residency at VSC in June, the month that the peonies bloom. I blossomed.
My skylit studio space was filled with blossoms which sat in mason jars. The fragrant aura in my space was a contrast to the painter’s oils and thinners of my neighboring artists. The petals from the maturing blooms eventually rest on the studio floor, a photo of which could grace the cover of a romance novel.
I am reminded of that wonderful time of inspiration and renewal, especially in June, when by my friends send me photos of this year’s peony blooms.
And for my friend Juana, who chose these images for her home at Ocean Reef, my hope is that each day is as joyful, inspired, and full of renewal, as was my time spent at VSC.
This photographic website provides me the opportunity for self-expression, for sharing