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Destination Quiet: Healing Through Light with Photographer Ian Patrick O’Connor

Ian Patrick O’Connor has lived many lives, and could be called many things. Photographer, Artist, Skateboard Photographer, SkARTist (a hybrid title for professional skateboarders who make art, and vice versa) or Surfer. The most striking quality Ian possess is his enviable aura of shaman-esque calm, stripped of ego or any hint of pretentiousness. He is calm, cool, collected, and seems to have cracked the secret to enlightenment. I would add most importantly, Ian is a Healer, and his solo exhibit “Present + Transcend” is an achievement in reaching Nirvana through photography.


To celebrate the run of “Present + Transcend,” which is displayed at Soho Beach House, Ian participated in an art talk moderated by Oolite Arts’ Vice President of Programming; Esther Park. Ian and Esther discussed his work, technique, and backstory on the rooftop of Soho Beach House, as sunset slowly faded into nightfall, under the spell of what artists like to call “the God hour.” The photos comprising Ian’s dual series “Present + Transcend” are a healthy dose of calm. Mother Nature is Ian’s studio. He’s managed to capture quiet moments, from the desolate deserts of Joshua Tree, to places a little closer to home; Miami, Kendall, Homestead, and Key Largo. A paper square and 4 x 5 film create a Floridian wonderland of zen, commanded through Ian’s lens. He proves luxe exotic locations aren’t required to find beauty, or better yet, solace and inner peace. One of the more eye catching photos from “Transcend” was birthed in Kendall Hammocks Park. Looking at this particular photo, one would think they’ve been transported to an Amazonian retreat, a guiding orange square as their light source.


Transcend #11, 2019 Photo Courtesy of Ian Patrick O’Connor official website


Space and color embody the work of “Present,” which as a series can serve as a visual love letter to the city of Miami. “Present” is Ian’s documentation of Miami. “I try to keep it more Scarface and less Pinterest. Ian describes the process of the series as “seeing something, and the creative Gods whisper to go make that into a photo.”

11th & Alton Photo Courtesy of Ian Patrick O’Connor official website


“Transcend” introduces Ian’s foray into light and color therapy, while in conversation with Nature. “Transcend” aims to transfer positive energy through photos. One of the inspirations for this project he attributes to Dr. Masaru Emoto’s book The Hidden Messages in Water.


So, about the square. The color square is the focal part, something the eye can’t help but return to. A port in a storm from Nature’s wildness. Something about the square provides shelter telling you It’s all going to be okay. The square is a repeating theme in Ian’s body of work. A mantra even. The technicality involves matching a roll of paper (the color square) to align with Ian’s 4 x 5 film. In order to capture this moment of meditative bliss, while choosing unadulterated outdoor elements as a backdrop, Ian describes having to battle the elements. Rain, wind, and all the violent abruptness one faces when control is surrendered to landscape. Also not (always) having official commercial permits to shoot. “Present + Transcend” is the pay off for enduring this struggle. A struggle that delivers a full healing process, not just for Ian himself, but for the viewer. Ian intentionally matches the square to the landscape, which achieves a therapeutic absorption via color.


Transcend #2, 2017 Photo Courtesy of Ian Patrick O’Connor official website


Prior to Ian’s fine art career, and in a previous life, he spent years as a professional skateboard photographer; still loved and idolized amongst the skate community today. His career switch is something of a punk Cinderella story. Growing up in Key Largo, which Ian describes as a weird place for one’s childhood years, skateboarding became an outlet and interest. Fast forward to the 1990’s, Ian fell into Miami’s skate scene while simultaneously taking photography classes at Miami Dade College. Ian became a staff photographer for Skateboard Magazine and Adio Footwear, soon solidifying himself within the beautifully chaotic world of professional skateboarding. One of his most notable skate subjects includes Mark Gonzales, a pioneer of modern street skateboarding. Ian’s time as a SkARTist however was only the beginning that would lay the foundation for his fine art career.


The presence of landscape and natural surroundings is a constant through Ian’s body of work, and something that he became drawn to while traveling all over the world taking photos of skateboarders. Eventually Ian out grew this period of his life.“I just remember being in a ditch in Arizona shooting this guy doing technical tricks…and I was laying on my back in the heat…and I didn’t find the photos interesting. I became bored of shooting skating.” Shortly after, Ian spent time with artist Doug Aitken which he describes as “a pivotal moment” and “eye opening” to the world of contemporary art. But knowing and appreciating this portion of Ian’s life provides even more context to his work in “Present + Transcend.”


Swap out empty parking lots, abandoned concrete structures, and temperamental skateboarders for Mother Nature in her purest unadulterated form. All while trying to capture a moment of bliss suspended in time. When describing the skill needed for skateboard photography Ian explains, “It’s very difficult on a technical level, and then you have the whole thing that skateboarding isn’t permitted in a lot of places. So you have to set up a studio in the street, and get your photo while there’s guys flying around in the air. It’s pretty challenging, but it builds this base as a photographer that you can shoot anything and everything.” When asked if he would ever return to professional skateboard photography, Ian stands by his retirement firmly.


Transworld SKATEboarding Cover shot by Ian Patrick O’Connor. Photo Courtesy of Trick Report


Ian’s photos produce harmony and balance, whether it’s a colored square against a Floridian landscape, or a skateboarder landing a trick. Raw nature provides the chaos, and Ian’s lens provides the peace. “Present + Tranced” captures the brilliant dichotomy of chaos and calm. In times when the world may seem overbearing, and the weight of the world’s ugly dark realities can be too much, his photos are the antidote. He provides the light. All we have to do is sit, observe, and wait for the silence.


Looking to the future, Ian’s long term goals include creating workshops where he can pass on his knowledge and teach younger generations how to shoot photography; whether the subjects are skateboarders or natural landscapes. In addition to exhibiting his photos in galleries, Ian hopes to add children’s hospitals as a place one can become pleasantly lost in the quiet of color and light.


For more information about Ian Patrick O’Connor, please visit the official website link below.


www.ianpatrickoconnor.com


Story by Eden Herbstman. Images by Ian Patrick O’Connor