Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Of Feet and Fine-Art

 "Dawn's Edge" - Florida Bay

When I was young, I liked to imagine my future self as a famous fine art nature photographer. I could see it perfectly. I'd wear Carhardt pants with deep red and green plaid shirts. I'd have a perpetual five o'clock shadow and salty disheveled hair, which I left unkempt even for television interviews. I would be lovable for my helpless indifference to the confines of fashion and uniformity of society. Driven with a sort of mad craze for inventing and revealing, I would consider all else secondary to the creative life. From my pockets, ideas scribbled on old receipts and napkins poured out as I fumbled for the keys of my beat-up truck. Empty coffee cups and junk food wrappers covered the floorboards demonstrating my hectic life was far overcrowded to make room for a thing like proper nutrition. This profound persona whose impetuous dedication to detail would avow itself in my exclusive black-tie biannual unveilings. Strewn all over my oak-paneled studio, small proofs of old prints (probably worth tens of thousands of dollars to collectors) radiated from, as if bowing in humble worship to a wall-sized limited edition of my latest masterpiece. Its depth and color would leave audiences breathless, contemplating their insignificance beneath the shadow of this immensely beautiful planet.

Boating on the emerald waters of Florida Bay

What a joke. I knew I could never grow facial hair. Actually, I struggled for a long time to divorce myself from this contrived artist I thought I wanted to be. Before that point, I even refused to photograph people because it didn't fit into the stuffy, fine-art box of my imagination. Without the context of people, however, I found that my stories were often incomplete. How would my readers get emotionally involved if they couldn't imagine themselves in my shoes? So I started making photos that shared a more personal and direct connection to the natural world, trying to engage the public at the most basic level. To put it bluntly, I began photographing my feet, in nature. 

Pulhaphanzak Waterfall in Honduras 

In this style, by virtually transplanting the viewer right into the frame I could share the experience of standing on the edge of a 150-foot waterfall or riding atop a speeding car. My parents disapproved, as the new images dissolved any ambiguity as to where I was during the often risky exposures. Not to mention my honest friends who declared that my offensive gnarly hobbit toes had no place in the public domain. For me, however, it was the ultimate way of providing emotional and physical context, giving it another dimension beyond the "look what I saw" or "Mac was here," images.  

Copies of The Drake and Audubon Naturalist magazines 

Surprisingly, despite the warnings from my friends, the public responded enthusiastically. Environmental organizations and magazine editors found these photos and started using them to promote their "get outside" campaigns. Even esteemed judges from international contests found the idea intriguing and unique while apathetically dismissing my fine art landscapes.

 Nuclear sunset cloud over Snake Bight in Everglades National Park

Today I have no qualms dancing on the line between what is considered fine-art and journalistic photography. They are equally important tools for telling a story. I now realize my goal isn't just to attract people to an upscale gallery in downtown, but to inspire them to get outside and beyond the city limits. If they can put themselves in my shoes or sandals, even for a brief moment, then I've effectively shifted the subject from the photographer to viewer. This is the crux; the thing all artists want from their audience: a personal connection. Now it's not merely proof of an encounter with nature, but an invitation, which feels more like "Mac was here... and you can be too." And that's what it's all about. 


  1. This is great Mac, I like Big Cypress the best -memories...

  2. HA! I saw Audubon's magazine today!
    I couldn't stop me from reading it when I recognized your feet in the cover!
    By the way I've always liked the perspective in these picts :)

  3. Wait for the phone call from your agent. You do have an agent don't you put some out door-sie kind of water shoe on those dogs as we don't want you slipping and falling or lacerating the bottom of your foot ( been there done that at Haulover Beach Miami Fl.) I see a footware company leaping on your kayak to sign you or sign on to underwrite your expeditions. we can follow you on twitter as you tell us where you are and then we go to see your pictures. Can't you sell an app for "screen savors" ( oh i just coined a new word) a Mac stone exclusive image for a screen saver er savor. Man you need to market yourself. You can thank me now or thank me later (again)