In my ten years of traversing the world to create my work, I’ve learned to embrace unexpected encounters because they often can result in moments worth preserving. “Over the Rail” is one of these unanticipated moments that was a welcome byproduct of spending time aboard the J-Class and 12-Meter racing sailboats while creating my series Sail: Majesty at Sea. While I had come to document the unparalleled design of these boats, I found that the sailors navigating them were an inseparable component of their makeup.
It was an incredible and humbling experience to observe these sailors. They operate like clockwork, and even when the lines on the deck looked like a bowl full of spaghetti, amidst the chaos were men and women in complete control.
As I captured the crew at work, it also created a more informed portrait of the world of high-stakes sailing. There is undeniable synchronicity between the boat and the people creating a pairing too beautiful to ignore.
When I saw these sailor’s shoes lined up perfectly over the deck of Rainbow, I was instantly drawn to the free-flowing forms of the water below framed against the crisp display of organization above. The unlikely combination of the two is representative of the oppositional forces at play when you are aboard. As organic and curvilinear as the sea may be, the boat is all angles, and as big as the boat may feel while you’re in the middle of the ocean, the sea remains in charge.
Rainbow, the boat in this image, cuts so effortlessly through the water you could forget it was crafted from a design created in the 1930s without the privilege of today’s technology. In fact, every single part of the boat is an incredible feat of design – and no aesthetics are spared. These boats are the result of careful calculation and engineering—every angle is designed to best harness the power of the wind, every surface beautifully shaped to convert that power into speed.
I wanted to marry the sport and design of the J-class and 12-Meter boats with elements of classic fashion photography, and this image’s composition and depth is a nod to the timeless appeal of both. For me, growing up near the water meant freedom and it helped spark my creative, adventurous spirit and sense of independence at an early age. This developed into an even more profound appreciation for nature and how we fit into the natural world, which directed me towards the path I am endlessly pursuing in my work today.
If you are interested in learning more about these boats and the series, alongside the limited edition print series I created a book that captures the spirit of sailing along with legendary sailor Gary Jobson.