Do you remember a time when the world felt magical? When I was a kid, the Keys were an exploration of the wilderness and a discovery of nature.
Walking through the woods you might see a large osprey or an outline of a hammerhead shark while looking at the ocean from the shore. Today, the Keys are traffic-laden and more commercial than ever. But there is a photographer out there who brings back that sense of adventure and magic. His name is Felipe Correa, wildlife and landscape photographer, whose work reminds us of a wild, magical world filled with personality.
If you start to speak to Correa about art and photography, be prepared to put aside a good hour to talk about his passion; rightfully so, when you see what he captures. His career started in 2012, when he decided to become a photographer. He had been practicing the medium for a while and loved what it did for him — particularly his sense of attention to the world. This brought him closer to his family, who themselves are all in the arts. He is grateful he happened to be naturally good at it.
“I just want to show something about life that compels, that helps people to see,” he said.
He knew this was a destiny he wanted to fulfill. His inspiration derives from the father of national parks, John Muir, and photographers Eddie Adams, Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynsky. Correa said the painters Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and the poets Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry have all been his teachers.
“I am a self-taught photographer; I have leaned heavily on the body of knowledge from the masters of art for help on technique and composition. There are many other constituent influences. I am grateful I can stand on the shoulder of these giants,” says Correa.
When Correa photographs an animal, it is almost as if he is taking a portrait of the animal. His wildlife portraits have unique, relatable personalities. When I asked him how he brings out the personality of the wildlife and which was his favorite, Felipe let me know.
“So many unique encounters, each one equally special. I do often recall an image I took of my friend and gator bodyguard, Fabian Redwing, of the most tender gator kiss. That may be my favorite photo yet.”
Correa’s landscape photos are like walking into a magical natural world that is hard to find. He travels around to take photographs of this world. Some of his favorite spots are in the Upper Keys.
“The Keys are so beautiful, there are so many great spots. I particularly enjoyed the views of the Florida Bay from Islamorada. The light is so beautiful, I have been lucky to get that “morada” tonality at sunset.”
As an artist you have two ways to go into a project: you carefully plan out what you are going to do or you don’t plan at all. You just essentially see what happens and kind of go with the flow of what is coming at you. How does Correa go about his process?
“I definitely have a goal, I intend to show essence, I plan for the bold and sharp angles. I prepare for it with calmness. No panic or urgency in my attitude, I actually ask my subjects for permission. It works.”
Correa also believes in giving back. He has been helping kids at the Treasure Village Montessori in Islamorada learn about photography.
“The best thing I can do with my gift is to share it. I proceed from a deep sense of wonder, and when you see the world with wonder the world reveals its wonders. That is such a terrific sensation and a great thing to help people to experience and see. I feel that all forms of artistic expression help us to learn who we are and what our purpose is in this world. Photography is a simple and elegant medium; all it takes is pushing a button, right? Yes, and the energy to push that button at the right and compelling time comes from a fierce type of attention. That is what I love to teach.”
Correa’s work can be found at Lobster Trap Art Gallery at MM 82 in Islamorada. What should someone look for when buying art? Correa muses, “I think one should get what truly compels, what stirs one’s feelings beyond the aesthetics of the piece. A good photograph invites the viewer to their own imagination, it makes one reason, wonder and fantasize. That is what one should buy, art that goes beyond its primary mission of filling/decorating some space in a room. One should buy art that helps decorate one’s soul.”