Only Some Pictures Tell Stories

Snowy at the End of the World: A Cheap, but Inspired, Ann Coen Knockoff
Snowy at the End of the World: A Cheap, but Inspired, Ann Coen Knockoff

Readings From The Northside is about taking the Readings. It’s not really about photography… by necessity, because I’m not a photographer (though it appears I’ve started playing one on T.V.) Pics on the Readings only really serve the purpose of proving that whatever ridiculous thing on the beach  took place, actually took place. As we like to say POIDH: “Pics, or it didn’t happen.” Here on RFTN, pictures are sadly devolved from “stories” in themselves, to just “words” that hopefully get assembled well enough to convey something. Usually nonsense.

Stumbling down the beach this week in a daze of sheer bliss & exhaustion from the Snowy White Insanity, I met a small group of Snowy Seekers and quickly I realized I was in the presence of greatness: LBI’s legendary photographer Ann Coen. I recognized Ann as I’ve been a huge fan of her stunning photos for quite some time.

Ann Coen's photos tell it as we remember
Ann Coen’s photos tell stories as we remember them. Photo by Ann Coen

Ann is probably best known for her absolutely spectacular Wedding and Portrait work, but her Fine Art work  is the stuff dreams are made of. It is impossible to miss her technical excellence and exquisite style. She makes you feel like you are there. Her ocean, surf, beach, and wildlife scenes capture our little slice of heaven in a way that is better than reality… she captures the shore in the sweet and dreamy way we remember it, in our sweetest memories of the beach.

Ann Coen knows that sense of place is central to the story
Ann Coen knows that sense of place is central to the story.  Photo by Ann Coen

It was a thrill to have the opportunity to shoot a few owls with Ann that evening, but the real thrill came later when she was kind enough to email over a few photos she’d captured this week.  I was instantly & enormously inspired. I felt like I was right back there on the beach with my Snowy friends, immersed in the drama of their lives. There is something in the vision of her composition, and her stylized approach the the scene that just nails it. The sense of place is tangible, and the emotional quality, real. Her photos can take you right to those places she wants to bring you to.

Sense of place.
Detail, texture, and place. Photo by Ann Coen

I spent the next day the way I spend most days, pretending I was a photographer. But this time, I pretended I was Ann Coen the photographer. Trying to mimic greatness is no easy task, and results in hundreds of terrible photos. It was ridiculously uncomfortable. I had to think, and I had to work: two things I dread. But I was inspired, and those exciting moments when your eyes are opened to a new way of seeing things, and your instincts primed for new approaches to life are too few not to be savored.

Storytime with Ann & Two Snowies
Storytime with Ann & Two Snowies. Photo by Ann Coen

To make this long picture-story short, the one shot I kept was the photo at the start of the post. It felt forced, and it felt unnatural. Every instinct wanted to zoom in on the owl, and cut out the station. But for anyone you has done some time at the End Of The World, the location is unmistakable and the scene, one you dream to return to when you are away. Even more specifically, that shot is at the spot the legendary fisherman, trusted wildlife spotter, and good friend Mark likes to work the Mullet.  Mark was the guy who got me on the phone and basically refused to let me get off the phone until I agreed to throw everything under the bus and come to New Jersey and have the best week of my life with the Amazing Snowy White Insantity of 2013. My story for that photo is a “Thanks” to folks like Mark & Ann who give us those small, unexpected pushes that lead us to new adventures.

So, for those readers who have responded to that photo, you can thank the legendary Ann Coen for the inspiration. (You specifically can thank her by hiring her for some family portraits, weddings, and what-not, paying her double her normal fees so she can have more time to come shoot wildlife!)

And now you know… there’s a whole bunch of stories in that photo, not counting the ones you may have read in it.

Bonus Ann Coen Shot. Naughty Peregrine! You stay hidden Snowy.
Bonus Ann Coen Shot. Naughty Peregrine! You stay hidden Snowy. Photo by Ann Coen