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Behind the Image With Sacha Specker

published
11.1.22
category
Stories
Behind the Image With Sacha Specker
Photos

Behind the Image With Sacha Specker

4 mins
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Behind the Image With Sacha Specker

4 mins
Behind the Image With Sacha Specker
published
11.1.22
category
Stories
Sacha “Spex” Specker is a photographer renowned around the world for the beautiful oceanscapes from his Atlantic Ocean backyard.

He is also a former professional bodyboarder, with a world title from 2012, and has a formal education in nature conservation. He’s a true waterman with a unique visual eye.

We sat down with Spex after our Cape Town shoot to learn more about his photographic approach to our project.

Behind the Image With Sacha Specker
What excites you about these images?  Tell the story of how they came to light…

I spend most of my days diving through the kelp forests along the Cape Town coastline. It is an incredibly diverse and productive ecosystem harboring spectacular congregations of fish, mollusks, and other marine life. Gliding and looking up through the kelp stripes has a calm and mystical feel to it. Very similar to that of an old tree forest.

A kelp forest is such a unique place and can offer shelter to a vast variety of life. I wanted to show the different fish, the long stripes (trunks) of the kelp, and the sheer scale of the environment. When Zandi stopped and took in her surroundings, it felt like a genuine moment of appreciation. I only took a handful of shots of her in this stand of kelp. I knew that I had captured the moment I was looking for in that very second.

Sacha Specker

“This image makes me think we are more connected to the ocean than we know.”

Behind the Image With Sacha Specker

For me, this image encapsulates Zandi as the "mermaid". The metaphoric tie between her hair and the seaweed surrounding her bridge the gap between sea and land. It makes me think we are perhaps more connected to the ocean than we know.

Behind the Image With Sacha Specker

Zandi reaching through into another world is exactly what is happening here. A subsurface cave, trapping air below a concave rock a few meters below the ocean's rough surface. We approached it with caution and weariness, but after gasping the first breath inside, we quickly realized that this cave was a safe haven and a place of calm and respite from the crashing waves and whitewater above.

What were your goals and hopes from this shoot? What surprised you (for the good and the bad)? Did you have a specific image or story you wanted to tell?

My goal was to use my images to tell the story of Zandi's love and appreciation for the ocean. I share this love and sometimes find it difficult to describe it in my own words. Spending time with Zandi, feeling her beaming energy, receiving positive feedback, and seeing smile after smile, allowed me to use my camera to find those moments so dear to me, now expressed and shared by Zandi to tell the story we love so much. We feel at home in the ocean.

The bad... I get seasick. It is not a matter of if, just when.

What were your goals and hopes from this shoot? What surprised you (for the good and the bad)? Did you have a specific image or story you wanted to tell?

My goal was to use my images to tell the story of Zandi's love and appreciation for the ocean. I share this love and sometimes find it difficult to describe it in my own words. Spending time with Zandi, feeling her beaming energy, receiving positive feedback, and seeing smile after smile, allowed me to use my camera to find those moments so dear to me, now expressed and shared by Zandi to tell the story we love so much. We feel at home in the ocean.

The bad... I get seasick. It is not a matter of if, just when.

Sacha Specker

“Flow is a state of mind for me. A place where joy and risk are intertwined to feed happiness and a sense of fulfillment.”

Behind the Image With Sacha Specker
This shoot was intense and the athletes were operating at a very high level. When you’re documenting an athlete at that level, what are you looking for so you can make sure you capture that story? What’s going through your mind?

Working with top athletes is always a pleasure, especially if they are doing what they do best. Not much direction was needed. If anything, I was pushed to my limit to try to keep up with Zandi, following her into the deep or fighting off the relentless chill of the freezing cold Atlantic. It was demanding and intense, but I enjoyed the challenge of capturing real moments of an extraordinary person exploring the ocean.

What does ‘flow’ mean to you? What does it feel like to be in a state of flow for you?

Flow is a state of mind for me. A place where I go when actively thinking is not an option. A place where joy and risk are intertwined to feed happiness and a sense of fulfillment. In some strange way, at the end of those days, it left me feeling like the reset button had been pushed.

Sacha Specker

“My goal was to use my images to tell the story of Zandi's love and appreciation for the ocean.”

Behind the Image With Sacha Specker
Behind the Image With Sacha Specker
How are you connected to the ocean? Describe your relationship with the ocean.

I grew up skirting the line between land and sea. Always running to get into the water, either to surf, bodyboard, dive or shoot. The ocean is my safe space, where my mind is calm, the scrambled thoughts of the modern world's chaos unraveled and the constant noise is muted. No matter the conditions or my current circumstance, if I can get into the ocean, my day is better than it was before.

Photography is a unique way to make a living… why have you chosen to be a photographer? What has photography taught you?

I have never received a salary. I have never had a fixed job. My youth was spent living hand-to-mouth, traveling, and dreaming of the next destination. Through travel I experienced the diversity of nature and a rich cultural heritage. I was drawn to documenting things for what they really were and how I saw them. Photography was the simplest way to do this. I bought a cheap camera in 1999 and never stopped photographing. Today I am lucky enough to have an accountant and not be behind a desk 9 to 5.

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our story image

Jamie Haines, sailor “I grew up on the ocean, and in order to protect it, we need to solve the climate crisis. It all goes hand in hand.”

our story image

Ian Walsh, big wave surfer “As athletes, ocean health and sustainability are at the heart of what we do – without the ocean, we wouldn’t be here.”

our story image

Steve Benjamin, filmmaker “I really want people to fall in love with the ocean, to appreciate it more, and to try to alter their behavior around it. Everything ends up in the ocean, and it’s such a dumping ground for humanity. My hope is that people see the ocean as a living entity that needs to be protected.”

our story image

Amory Ross, storyteller “How can I describe the ocean? The ocean is impossible to describe because it is endless; it is full of life, wonder, and mystery.”

our story image

Todd Hannigan, surfer, composer, filmmaker “For my entire life, if things were upside down, I could always count on the ocean to set me straight.”

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