The Luminous Landscape Grant

Submission Info

Swell and Breath

Aaron McNulty - New Hampshire (NH), USA

The power of the ocean, both to destroy and to heal, is a deep fascination for me and being on the water on a surfboard as well as in the water with my camera are where I feel an incredible freedom and joy.
My proposed project is to continue creating images that capture the ocean's depth and intensity from an angle not many get to see, focusing on PTSD and the solace found in the power of the waves.
I hope to create a portfolio, a monograph to go with an exhibit and hopefully a book.

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Oceans make up 70% of the Earth’s surface, and ocean waters can reach chilling depths of 36,000 feet with a crushing pressure of more than 8 tons per square inch. Sea salt contains 92 trace minerals, 24 of which have been proven to be essential for optimal health. (Jacques de Langre) Our bodies are made up of salt water. Oceans hold the power to destroy as well as the power to heal.
I was raised primarily on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, discovering surfing at a time in my youth when it was much needed as an outlet and release. I also discovered photography more recently and it has become a driving passion. I currently work as a ship fitter at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and shoot in my free hours, with the goal of someday moving into more full time professional photography, while fully appreciating the ability to work with my hands, near the water. Surfing and shooting surfers, essentially being in the water in some way, is my main passion, after my family. I have seen and felt the healing power of the ocean, and in the water, I feel an incredible sense of freedom and joy. I want others to see and feel it, and I know the power of images.

Intrigued with “Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory, which argues that when a person's mind is fully focused and immersed in an activity, it produces a feeling of enjoyment and peace in the process of the activity. Flow states flood the brain with neurochemicals such as anandamide and serotonin, the same substances found in antidepressants. Achieving a flow state is comparable to meditation.”
I have found peace and therapy through other avenues, but one of the most profound places was and continues to be the ocean and this is true for many people. Surfing is a hugely growing part of PTSD therapy and I would like to continue to explore the depth and power of the ocean, from the perspective of being in the waves, under them, surrounded by that power, capturing the way it feels to be surfing, with my lens, which is a perspective that is hard to get and not seen often.
I plan to use these funds in two parts: to continue shooting and produce a unique body of work (a strong portfolio that is already underway, publication of a monograph to accompany an exhibit, and ideally, a book), and also to contribute to and document the veteran surfing programs that happen in the Seacoast area and beyond, giving added life and exposure to these incredible healing modalities, while providing a view of a world few actually see, but is a familiar and soothing, yet entirely wild place for us all.



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