The Art of the Catch

A light breeze from the ocean caresses the palms,
In an open breezeway, 20 souls peacefully perched on cushions and chairs,
have faded into the luminous depths,
A syncopated rift of harmonic chirps breaks the early morning stillness.
A tropical feathered calliope plays.
Deep in the depths, A swish of the tail, and I'm gliding through the cold languid dark,
then, a luminous flash, from the corner of an eye.
And I bite, take the hook.
Am hauled to the surface and into light.
I lean, to pull this majestic catch to my craft. Life pulsing into light.
"It's a jewel of the sea, mahi mahi", the boatman whispers.
Out of the fathom deep, into the light and clutch of this world,
Now, a rainbow of brilliance aglow in the sun,
"It's a pity, but
Soon you'll see it's shimmer fade and die".
We sit in the depths, with honed hooks, a line,
Waiting in grace, we hope to haul this elusive brilliance into our world.

I composed this poem years ago at a meditation retreat Susan and I attended on the big island of Hawaii at a plantation-turned-retreat center. I had sneaked my camera in, and so managed to capture my joy of the gardens in a few of these images from the stay.

My words, hopefully begin to capture the stillness and tranquility of the place - and the haunting morning riffs of unseen birds from palms. The insight I felt at that time was about the fleeting nature of clear perception - its majesty and brilliance, and impermanent nature. While attention may rest in the world, this beauty comes from the deep where "outer" and "inner" begin to loose all distinction.

In these crystal waters, the catch is the JOY OF LIFE.

Steve Solinsky

Awakening to the Light

Welcome to my new blog site. The title “Awakening…” is the tentative title of my proposed book of images which is now in the collecting stage. It will consist of my images over the years, in addition to some recent written material relating to my work as an artist, the creative process, and it’s mysterious source. This blends it with my other passion- Buddhist meditation practice.

Photography image books are generally conceived with a concrete theme- often a place or subject category. I could see, though, this approach wouldn’t work for me. I don’t do my work in terms of subject matter, place, or any other category of “stuff”. In fact, I intuitively avoid this.

As an artist my subject is ultimately my own feeling life and the emotions which are inspired by my environment, and its mood, as reflected in the illumined objects I see. So, while I train my camera outside, I’m more closely monitoring my own inner world. This is not a subject oriented approach, but an intuitive one. So, the theme of the book concerns this process of seeing, many examples with commentary, and insights relating it as a spiritual practice.

I call this “SEEING” in it’s truest sense. What normally passes as seeing is really a process of conditionally recognizing only what is already known, expected, or familiar. To truly see in the way I suggest is a revolutionary thing, and novel in every sense. That is why images arising from this place are experienced as ‘fresh’, or alive in some enchanting way- and tend to have a lasting power to fascinate, or intrigue. They are reflections from an unfamiliar world, but one in which we do live, but regrettably are not conditioned to see.

SEEING is employing the wholeness of being to perceive, and not with just the mind. I started my career with ideas of great subjects to shoot. But, soon I found my ideas to be quite limiting and uninspired for the task of making great art. I made many exposures, and many were unremarkable. These were mostly the shots stirred by ideas of what comprises a compelling photo subject. But occasionally there was the lone image that carried a magic or presence that was mysterious, beyond identity and seemed to come alive in the light, and yet as a subject, most would deem quite ordinary. But the colors, the form, and this “living force” infused by the conditions of light in that moment and place, made it sing. It came alive.

I came to realize then, at least for me, a great photograph requires the confluence of 3 factors-

1-Obviously, a material subject of some kind that receives the light, 2-a certain special quality of light, and 3-my sensitivity of being to spot this fusion in the environment. If one of these elements is lacking, a photograph doesn’t result. Many times I know I had 2 of the 3, but lacked the sensitivity, for instance, to make an image. Or, had great subject potentials, but lacked the right light. Of course, the right light for one subject may not work with the next, so finding that compelling subject to shoot is a serendipity of conditions, which isn’t always so predictable.

Great photographs are accidental to conditions, but will never happen without the eyes to see.

That is why I conceived one potential title for my book project as “Nowhere in Particular.” Within it is the implication that sometimes I found the best strategy may be to eschew any plans, places, or ideas about what to photograph, what look for, and instead open my eyes to what conditions have conspired for me- and many times I have been shockingly rewarded by the unexpected. The most powerful images are always surprises- and that is why they have 'lasting power' to re-inspire again and again over many viewings.

Setting out with too rigid an idea of what to photograph is a limiting proposition, and usually will yield only a less-inspired results, if any, at all. An image that illustrates this point is one I shot one cloudy afternoon on Cannon Beach, Oregon. Walking on the sand I was enthralled by the experience- and the all-pervading presence of the light. The fine sand on this beach became highly reflective as waves withdrew, yielding a smooth undulating mirror of the billowing sky above. The scene became an embracing bubble of luminous light – like literally walking in the clouds. All I could think to do was capture this somehow on film.

Then I noticed the 3 souls standing on the strand down a ways. With a beer, camera and tripod ready, they talked idly, I imagined, waiting for the sun to dramatically break through the clouds in some glorious bursting sunset display. While they waited, I marveled in wonder at this luminous moment, intrigued with it all. I took the shot, capturing their waiting anticipation.

In the end, the sun never uncloaked, and after a while they had deserted the beach, leaving only their imprints in the sand.

When it comes to SEEING, expectation is a blindfold, and must be abandoned to the faith of what this present moment actually offers. The most powerful image is always a surprise. It’s wakefulness captured, for others to marvel.


You sometimes hear photographers say, when it comes to imagery, “It’s the Light”.

Since light is ever-shifting, ever-changing, subjects are appearing and fading at every moment in every location. The challenge of the photographer is to be present and awake to the conditions, wherever he stands.

And just where that is, may be of secondary import.

And, that may just also be a recipe for a life well-lived.

Steve Solinsky