Starting when I was five years old, my mother would take me from the sidewalks of Montebello to Laguna Beach, an area known throughout southern California for its tide pools. I would run to the reef’s edge, lie down on the wet rocks, roll up my sleeves, and gingerly immerse my bare arms into the cold water. I would then try to communicate, through touch, with these wonderfully strange creatures. One day, an octopus slipped into my hands. As I was carefully examining him he reached out and, with his tentacles, started to examine me. My world turned around. I understood that we were communicating with each other, from one world to another. From that day on, I wanted to make myself small so I could swim into these salt-water communities and be an intimate part of life in that weightless and watery world.
In High School I enrolled in a photography course and it didn’t take long until I was hooked. I stopped wasting time and dove head first into my new passion. I then moved to Santa Barbara, California to go to the Brooks Institute of Photography. In order to meet people in my new home, I took a SCUBA class and, on that first dive, I was reunited face to face with my old friends from the tide-pools. I realized I was finally able to make myself small enough to share my life with theirs in the ocean environment.
At Brooks I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Ernie Brooks II, then president of Brooks Institute, and a legend in the world of underwater photography. After graduation and for the past 33 years, I have worked professionally in the commercial photography field. Now I am giving myself over to my passion of underwater photography, diving the islands along the Western coast of the Americas. I realize now that as an individual I have never been more than a drop of water in the face of the vastness of the ocean. I have also seen that, as a species, humanity’s collective weight is having a profound impact on its resources. So, with my light and patience, I create dimensionality in my photographs of these critters so that they leap off the page to greet the viewer. I am committed to using my art and technique to spark in others both a deep reverence and a sense of deep responsibility for the ocean and its creatures. My heart beats with love for the underwater world and it’s inhabitants. Through photography I expose viewers to new ways of connecting to my subjects so they too can feel the heartbeat of life underwater.
In the weeks to come I will be writing about my underwater photography. Bringing you, the viewer, on dives with me. With images and video you too will explore the depth and beauty of our underwater environment.
Click here to see interview with Richard Salas.