This girl looks like she’s posing, but she’s not. She didn’t even know I was there. She was just a high school girl on her way home in the afternoon. She was planning to take a short cut by walking along the beach, but the tide was too high to walk through, even with her shoes off. She’s just trying to think of what to do next. It’s a common enough situation, and so what? That’s not why I took the picture.
A photograph can mean many things, perhaps meaning one thing to the photographer and something else to those who see it. For the casual viewer, this picture could be just a picture of a girl standing by the sea. That’s true, but it’s not why I took the picture.
It might also be seen by those who think in terms of ideology and dogma as symbolic of modern youth, with an ecology spin. The girl could be seen as a symbol of the fears of the young, caught by “the rising tide of global warming and environmental destruction”. But such an interpretation would turn a beautiful picture into a vulgar political cartoon, and diminish any artistic value it might have. I would be annoyed by anyone who looked at it that way; that’s not why I took it.
What happened was this: I was hanging around by the beach one afternoon with my camera and a telephoto lens. I saw a bunch of high school kids walking along the road and I took some shots of them. They walked away and left this girl to find her way home alone.
There’s an ancient Greek myth of the birth of Venus, the beautiful Goddess of Love. According to this myth, Venus was miraculously formed from the waves of the sea, and arose from the waves to be blown onto land by the god of the winds. This “Birth of Venus” has been painted many times over the centuries by many famous artists, paintings I have known all my life.
Sometimes, for a brief moment, the whole world becomes a miracle. As the girl stood there in the wind and the waves, something happened in front of my eyes: this ordinary school girl suddenly became Venus, risen from the sea. As I raised my camera, she turned to the wind, looking fresh-born and fulfilled. That’s when I took the picture.