Anything in the water. This is the simple response one gets when asking Sarah Lee what she wants to photograph. This laid-back and nonchalant water baby was born and raised in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i, most of the time living on a Kona coffee farm (although she prefers tea over coffee), and the past 4 years between Orange County, California and Gold Coast, Australia. At 21 years of age, she has been doing photography for the past 6 years and is primarily self-taught. Her passion emerged for underwater and surf photography because of her years in competitive swimming, beating all the boys in butterfly and open water long distance events, and later surfing in her teens. Even when the waves are pumping, her passion lies behind the camera, capturing lifestyle, underwater, and surf photos. Her Hawaii roots give her a light-hearted and care free attitude which are evident in her photos as she has the ability to keep things casual while magnifying the best in what surrounds her. In the future, she hopes to use her talent to document ocean, environmental issues, and water people whose stories need to be told around the world.
1. What is it about your photography that you strive to make special and unique?
I think what makes it special and unique is that my photographs are cinematically visceral, through my lighthearted and casual approach, fuelling people's stoke on life, getting them to 'feel the warmth,' and live vicariously through them, if only for a moment. I have a inclination to look at everything (people, landscapes, objects) in a spatial sense - evaluating the compositions of what's in front of me, the situations of light, and how people are transformed by it. I strive to make my photographs creative and transformative, not in a way that distorts or projects a viewpoint of what the photograph is of, but instead reveals elements of what the photograph contains that one normally wouldn't notice in real life.
2. What makes you passionate about photography?
Metaphorically speaking, photography is the primary tool God has given me, to sail my vessel through this vast ocean of life and navigate in and through it's many currents. I'm an observer and a quiet presence, so what makes me passionate about photography is that it is not only a way for me to connect with people and the ocean, but also is a way for me to be an active observer instead of a passive bystander - capturing and accentuating the beauty of what already exists.
3. Who and/or what has influenced your photography and why?
My photography is shaped and inspired by the people and friends I am surrounded by. The majority of the subjects my favourite photos are of close friends. Whether it's the photo subject, a certain location, or just the people I'm with at the moment, my creativity and influence comes from the synergy and positive experiences we share.
4. What dreams or aspirations do you have for your photography?
I am not out to change the world, get famous, or send a particular message to anyone with my photographs. I just want to get people happy and stoked on the goodness of life, particularly through my water photography, because there's something absolutely magical about the ocean and surfing … and it's pure joy for me to be out in the water, "translating" the connection surfers have with the ocean. I want to share that feeling with other people through my surf photography. I dream of spending the rest of my life living simply and traveling around the world, documenting the lives of surf and water people around the world.
5. If you were the recipient of the grant, how would you use the money to further your photography career aspirations?
Gear isn't everything but a new camera and housing upgrade is something I've been needing for awhile.
6. Where do you see your career in 5 years?
Travelling around to every coastal nook and cranny of the world, shooting surf and water photography for individuals, mags, and orgs ... non stop.