We had the good fortune of connecting with Phoenix SpiritDiva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phoenix, how do you think about risk?
For me risk-taking is the not so secret ingredient that has made all the difference in achieving anything worthwhile in my life and career. Although I never really think of myself this way, I find that others do and, in fact, many of my collectors call me “intrepid”. I am simply being me. Perhaps it is this essence of my being that allows me to connect with and capture the soul of animals and environments in my fine art photography.
Throughout my various careers as an educator, school system administrator, business coach, radio talk-show host, speaker and more and now as a professional photographer, a curiosity, sense of wonder and willingness to explore, perfect and master the “new” and unchartered path has always directed my actions. Not everything has always worked out as expected. As much as I have always cringed at the thought of failure, experience has taught me I have always fallen forward to a more perfect place. As Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “It’s better to have tried and failed than to live life wondering what would’ve happened if I tried”. Persistence, fortitude, inner strength, positivity along with staying centered in the middle of life’s storms and creatively finding the way to the upside of uncertainty and upsets help define my character. A good dose of self-humor helps too, although often in retrospect.
Honed through adversity my inner core is guided by an unwavering belief in trusting my inner voice, intuition, God-voice, spirit, Universe or whatever word works for you. Regardless of my scholarly achievements, following pure logic has often tripped me up and been costly – physically, emotionally and fiscally. Life University has taught me there is a right balance and approach to achieving accomplishments. Whenever I follow this higher voice from a place of confidence, whatever I thought was supposed to materialize, that or something better happens.
This is pretty much a repeating pattern in my photography adventures. For example, one afternoon I thought I was being prompted to go to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to capture the sunset. When I arrived and scouted out the area it just wasn’t a spectacular sunset that evening. Then I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes as I gazed up to a massive pink harvest supermoon. Quickly I found my location on a narrow berm between two lakes overlooking a marsh. Sunset shifted to the blue hour and I photographed as late as I could until the booming grunts of alligators told me it was time to call it a wrap. (“Moon Over Loxahatchee”) Another time, one night before going to bed I was guided to photograph the sunrise at Everglades National Park the next day. I zeroed in on Long Pine Key. The next morning arriving before twilight with my camera gear in one hand and a flash light in the other I walked towards the lake to set up my shot of the sun rising between two pine islands. Then the light shined back. I froze. Intuitively I knew I was walking straight towards an alligator. I took a few steps back and waited. When the sun’s golden rays began to pass though the pine trees across from the lake, I raced towards the lake’s edge as the alligator slid off the shore and glided across the lake in the morning fog. (“First Light”)
So yes, in short, I’d say I’m a calculated risk-taker. One who follows higher wisdom, does my best planning, shows up, stays centered in love and flows with what is. And, although, it may not always feel or look that way, it always ends up being on the upside.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It has been said that the camera reflects both ways. As an artist, every vision I capture through my camera’s lens reflects my heart being touched by the soul of wild places and their inhabitants. Every time I go out to photograph nature I really find myself going within. I love the sacred opportunity to commune with the divine, transcendent essence of nature. For me the extraordinary beauty of nature and wilderness are a wonder. Attempting to fix them in time is my passion; photography is my art.
Though my subjects differ widely – from owls, egrets and flamingos to sacred trees and forests to the moon over marshes and the Milky Way over national parks to dramatic sunrises and sunsets to delicate flowers – my photographs all carry my signature style that inspires peace and serenity featuring subjects that are either endangered or threatened. Known for my painterly approach to photography, my great sense of oneness with the natural world and understanding of composition, light and timing comes through. More than a beautiful piece of fine art photography, with each of my pieces it’s always my intent to raise awareness of endangered and threatened species and habitats that we stand to lose in the natural world if we are not careful. I’m honored that so many collectors tell me they feel as if they are right there with me while I’m taking the photograph when viewing my art work.
My approach to photography and life is grounded in my philosophical belief that we are all one, we are all interconnected. In protecting the world’s nature and wildlife, the environment, we are really protecting the family of humanity. For me the importance of nature is more than a scientific necessity for creating quality air, clean water and producing food. It is a sacred necessity for healing and bringing peace to the human soul. And, I, for one, am a beneficiary every time I step out into nature.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It is a blessing to live in beautiful, vibrant South Florida. From culture to cuisine to nature and wildlife there is a diversity of fun and interesting places to visit. Our adventures would be Nature, Nature, Nature from pre-dawn to sunrise to sunset and blue hour. Top places include Everglades National Park, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Green Cay Nature Preserve. And, if an evening opened up for a leisurely dinner, it would be under the stars sitting on the patio in front of one of the fire-pits at GALLERYone Fort Lauderdale adjacent the Intracoastal Waterway.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As the African truism says, “It takes a village to raise a child”. And, that is true for my growth and success as a nature and wildlife photographer. I’m immensely grateful for all the doors that have opened to me once I said “Yes. I am a photographer.” My body of work has been shaped by the community of South Florida gallerist, curators and administrators who believe in me and my works enough to have invited me to present 20 solo exhibitions to date, Artist-In-Residence committees selecting me for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Olive Stack Gallery in Ireland and the acceptance of my works in some 50 juried and group exhibits each year along with winning many awards. And, I have been the beneficiary of numerous published articles including most recently the cover of “The Pen Women” national magazine. And, it is so rewarding and humbling when other artist friends respect your work enough to recommend you to galleries where they exhibit. Perhaps a barometer of success is consistent sales and I am grateful for the more than 60 collectors who have purchased large fine art photography pieces, many of them several times.
A special Shoutout goes to the several local art organizations and the people associated with them who have all been helpful: Broward County Cultural Division, ArtServe, Bailey Contemporary Arts, Studio 18, National League of American Pen Women (which I am honored to be the president of for the past six years) and Broward Art Guild (where I previously served as vice president for three years), among others.
However, I dedicate this shout out to my late father. The seeds of being a nature photographer were first planted as a child on family vacations to national parks like Yosemite and the Everglades. Although, my father never handed me a camera, I stood right next to him as he magically captured each vista. This love of nature and photography was nurtured with a steady diet of watching nature programs on television and reading National Geographic Magazine with him. In retrospect, I believe these early experiences with dad helped shape my art of seeing.