Atlantic Ocean, USA - Joshua Jensen-Nagle

My Watermark is the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Mantoloking, New Jersey.

As a child, I spent my summers in Mantoloking at my grandfather’s beachhouse. I often reflect on my time there and the endless amount of joy it brought me. I spent my days basking in the sun, swimming in the ocean, jumping waves and learning to surf and sail. This is where my connection to water first began.

On one particular day, I remember my father took me out, teaching me to sail on a small Sunfish. He was playing around and decided to capsize the boat on purpose. I remember being in the water next to the now upside down boat, when this giant fin came out of the water right beside us. I didn’t know what it was, but my dad knew right away; it was a sunfish, a real one. I remember just how big the ocean felt in that moment and the realization that I was completely at it’s mercy. I’ve spent a lot of time in those waters and I’ve never seen a sunfish since.

Water has always been a part of my work as a photographer, it wasn’t something I sought out, I’ve just always naturally been drawn to it. Water was part of my early exploration into photography. When I was 16, I lived in a rural part of New Jersey and I was taking a photography class at my high school. I remember visiting this reservoir in the winter and taking a photo of it. I remember looking at that photo and something about the way the light struck the not completely frozen water, stayed with me. I took my camera with me that summer to the beach and explored photographing the shore.

Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to work all over the world, having now photographed in 6 continents and across 20 plus countries. I guess I’ve been following water this whole time, viewing it in all its transformations, watching how it interacts with the earth and how people interact with it. Through my work and travels, I’ve started to see water with whole new perspectives. My work in Iceland and Argentia seems a departure from my more-known series of beach images, but they are tied together through water. With global climate change, glaciers are rapidly melting and as the sea level rises, our sandy beach shorelines will continue to retreat.

I’ve also come to be patient when photographing water. Timing is important. I photograph from a helicopter high above the beach, and I need to be sure the sun is at just the right angle, at the right time of day, or the shadows become too long and the water looks too dark. Sometimes I get the photo and sometimes I don’t, but I have learned that with every photo is a little piece of myself and my connection to water.

Now I live in Toronto and I’ve had the opportunity to become well acquainted with Lake Ontario and I feel incredibly lucky to live in this city and sail on this body of water that has clean, clear beaches and places to swim. Sailing has always been an escape for me, something that gives me a sense of freedom. When I’m not traveling in the summer and in the air shooting, I’m home, I’m on the water and I’m sailing. I love taking our boat over to Hanlan’s Point or Ashbridges Bay to go for a swim.

Ashbridges Bay reminds me of the beaches in New Jersey, the water of my childhood. I am grateful for the influence those beaches and water in general has had on my career and the incredible path that it has led me on. I am equally grateful for the peace that comes with sailing the open water and being allowed that moment out of life, and out of time.

Jessica Gordon
Joshua Jensen-Nagle

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