What does it take to get this shot?
We talked to the man who photographed it, artist Clifford Ross, to find out. Artspace, a contemporary art hub, is selling 300 prints of his work Hurricane to benefit our operating costs.
Can you give a rundown of your background?
I was a painter for 20 years, working realistically and abstractly before I discovered photography in the mid-nineties. Actually, in truth photography discovered me. It was just a part of my note taking in nature preparing for my paintings. Then the “note taking” became my obsession.
Why water for you? What inspired you to take photos of the sea during a storm in the first place?
It’s not a question of “why water for me”? It’s “why water for everybody”? Water is elemental –- it covers 75% of the earth’s surface, roughly 70% of an adult’s body is made up of water, and scientists estimate that about 90% of all living organisms on Earth live in water. It is just so fundamental!
Water –- from placid swimming pools to stormy oceans –- appealed to me as a subject early on. The impulse to shoot the hurricane waves came from a long time fascination with the power of nature. When I was just getting interested in photography, I saw a news blast that a hurricane was heading to Long Island and I jumped in a car and raced out to see what that was like. It caught my attention. Big time. I just sort of threw myself into the waters off Georgica Beach in East Hampton with my camera in hand, determined to capture the drama.
I just sort of threw myself into the waters with my camera in hand, determined to capture the drama….
it was an ecstatic experience.
So as you shot this in the water, tethered to an assistant, during the storm… were you scared, excited, nervous…?
Shooting hurricane waves is an ecstatic experience. I am working in the moment and for better or worse, I’m more focused on joining nature than experiencing some more logical fear of being victimized by it. There is always a strange serenity cloaking me while inside the maelstrom.
How did you hear about charity: water and what was your initial reaction to the partnership?
I heard about charity: water originally from my friend Tom Cohen and his colleague Chris Vroom, the Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of ArtSpace. charity: water is a terrific organization and their interest in working with my work was matched by my interest in putting the work I do to philanthropic use. It’s a perfect match of subject and cause. Art should be a spiritual experience, but there is no reason that it can’t also serve the world in concrete ways. This project with ArtSpace and charity: water is a perfect opportunity for me to do just that.
How did you feel when you first learned about the water crisis?
Water is fast becoming the world’s most valuable commodity; and we need it more than oil and gas. Now there’s a big problem to help solve.
If my artwork can build awareness of a growing environmental problem… terrific. It’s tremendously satisfying to me.
What future projects are you working on — anything else involving the power of water?
The power and movement of water informs everything that I do, including my abstract transformation of Mt. Sopris in Colorado into the animated world of Harmonium Mountain, my recent video work, which is blessed to have an original score by Philip Glass.