2003 — Age 19

Half of this year I lived in Newcastle, Australia. Another three months were spent on Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles. All the while, I toted my Sony F-717. On one occasion, I was asked to photograph an absurdly vain young man who requested modeling shots. Standing waist-deep and focused on the dim electronic viewfinder, I was overtaken by a wave. The entire camera was soaked, and my feelings were sunk to the sea floor—that device was by far my most valuable possession, in more ways than one, and I was certain it was ruined.

For a few dollars, I purchased a small screw driver set from a nearby general store, laid out a towel on which to perform the surgery, and set to work disassembling the camera. My hope was to remove as much salt water as possible. The process took two hours and afterward the camera always rattled, but you can imagine my joy when the Sony logo glowed to life on the screen. I got another six months out of the camera with only minor issues, before giving it to a friend.

The days of the F-717 were numbered, salt bath or not. During my last trip to Catalina, I laid eyes on the brand new Canon 10D—a marvel for its time. A flush of insecurity came over me, familiar to all  photographers, when one realizes that “professionals” use detachable lenses. However serviceable, my all-in-one was demoted to a gizmo. It is tragic that we often see technology this way. The F-717 was a real gem.

Matt captured this shark just off the coast. Its nervous system was still reacting, so that its jaws would snap shut whenever we put a wooden spoon inside. There is nothing technically impressive about this image. Yet the aphorism rings true, making images that capture the attention is as much about seeing something inherently fascinating and getting a little closer, than about the artistic angle you might put on it.