Let us live for the beauty of our own reality.
– Charles Lamb
What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? A loaded question, perhaps, but one that sets my mind whirring with the various stunning environments, art, and people I’ve had the privilege of setting eyes on in my lifetime so far. Maybe we’ll become clearer on our most treasured eye candy as we explore some stunning imagery from different artists below.
The nature of beauty
When I think about beauty, one awe-inducing film immediately comes to mind: Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow. This is one of the most aesthetically inspired and emotional meditations on our relationship with nature. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage everyone to seek it out. Words will do this work no justice; they require being seen — and felt — to be understood.
Beauty in water: simple possibility
At the end of the day, if my answer weren’t Ashes and Snow, it would be something else water-related. Water holds a special sense of magic — a feeling of innate possibility that lies just beneath the surface of our everyday lives.
Scuba divers know this underwater beauty intimately. But even a glimpse of my hand in a swimming pool’s turquoise-blue water, distorted by the rippling movement, with the sun’s rays shining through, can feel just as beautiful in the moment as swimming past a giant coral reef, filled with vibrant colors and sea-life.
Water’s natural beauty has not gone unnoticed by photographers. It was not that long ago when underwater color photography was born in the late 1920s, while the first black and white underwater image was made in the late 1880s.
Since then, water has inspired many more artists and creatives with its natural, inspiring aesthetic and emotional elements. Three artists whose work I’ve recently come across are from different backgrounds, but have one thing in common: they use the beauty of water to investigate the experience of being alive in our universe.
1. Exploring our underwater world: Mark Laita
Mark Laita’s images of underwater creatures give us a fresh perspective on these beautiful animals, fish, and other underwater dwellers that normally remain out of sight — and, unfortunately, out of mind. That these creatures are usually unseen is, I think, part of what makes it so easy for us to treat our oceans with such disregard, slowly destroying them without much thought to all that we’re harming.
Other photographers have brought to light the tragedies that are occurring globally — proving through imagery that making mindful choices as consumers by purchasing sustainable products continues to be one of the best ways to avoid ongoing damage: our everyday decisions affect all living things, globally.
Laita’s visually stunning, and somewhat surreal, colorful creatures show us the extraordinary, otherworldly beauty that exists — at least for now — in the veiled empire contained in our oceans and seas. This imagery helps to remind us of the beauty that quietly resides in a place from which we’re frequently closed off.
2. Exploring our inner world: Ryan James Caruthers
Caruthers, only 19 years old, uses water in a completely different way: he uses it to evoke the ambiguous, subtle emotions we all experience in one way or another, deep inside our inner worlds. To me, Caruthers’ work reveals water’s innate, emotive nature by conveying subjective feelings through it.
By representing abstract concepts through water’s mutable, ethereal sensibilities, the photographer also manages to retain the essence of water’s strength. Our emotional connection with water becomes readily apparent through his evocative imagery.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.
― E.E. Cummings
3. Exploring our connection with nature as a whole: Jean-Yves Piffard
Piffard’s images are from a collection entitled Art Within Nature; unsurprisingly, they focus on the beauty that is intuitively created with water. His images of natural environments range from simple to grand: some appear as though they were made during a casual, mindful walk, while others clearly display a pre-determined public art piece involving natural elements.
Either way, the images expose the harmony produced when we merge nature, water, and human creativity. This work also inspires us to make our own images — even if they are simply snapshots made with our phones — and to creatively interact with our environment more in our day-to-day lives.
Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.
― Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad