The vessel in the picture (above) is an example of some early work from my Minnesota days- an urn inspired by P. Vitulina. It's still one of my favorites. If I could massage the crackle effects during the Raku process to achieve that type of outcome every time, I’d be a happy man!
I’ve been sidetracked, however. This entry is now going to serve as a bit of a tribute to a guy I’ve never met.
Here’s the best one I’ve ever taken (from a kayak trip through the Deer Island group off West Vancouver Island).
I like the way this dude is lurking nestled in the kelp… pretty typical for him and his breed. Silhouettes at the eye’s periphery- stare at them directly and they’re gone.
On this particular trip, there were never fewer than four of these guys shadowing us, and often more. They have a strangely intense stare- even intimate... I don't know of an analogue from any other mammal. It's easy to see how the Selkie legends from West Clare and Scotland originated (more about that in a future essay).
So- I was honestly quite pleased with this photo... or at least until I encountered this guy's work...
Anyhow, Kawika Chetron snared these images- in the main- off the coast of Northern and Central California. Apparently, it’s a hidden world of reefs, ledges, and chasms, all laced with rip currents and tidal surges.
These are stunning images. I'm a cursory photographer at best, but I've taken enough pictures to recognize that images like these represent one of the following:
- Hours, days, years of dedication
- A keen, uncomprimising eye for beauty
- A deeply rooted understanding of the character of a specific place and its denizens
- A healthy dose of serendipity and fortuitousness
So- I fired off an email, asking whether I could use a few photos in an essay. A few days later, I received a gentle, gracious message from Kawika’s mother…
Our sad news is that Kawika was lost at sea on a dive March 17, 2007. You may see his website at www.coldwaterimages.com. You may also view a newspaper article from April 1, 2007 regarding Kawika here.
For one thing, this type of loss is infinitely more relatable to me now than it was a year ago, in light of the death of my mother. Obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with Kawika’s family.
Secondly, the blithe spirit is perishingly rare, and a precious thing. There are so few people who pursue a single passion with utter joy, without regard to risk or the censorship of society. Kawika seems to have been one of these outliers.
- first descents
- the divine
- comradeship and love
- the perfect photograph
- or even just a chance to turn the dial down on society’s racket for a few minutes