Recently Me2 requested that each of the regular contributors at the blog answer the relatively simple question; “What is that one image that was an epic game changing experience?” Both Me2 and Avanaut have answered this question quite eloquently and I find myself trying to do the same.

Me2 does like to challenge us, and this question was yet another question that I struggled with.

For me it was never one image that changed everything, but a series of images. Unlike my partners here on the blog, I do not pre visualize my photographs; I never have. I am more the blind person bumbling around in the dark with a flash that occasionally lights up the room to bring a moment of clarity. Honestly this is probably not the best working method; I tend to get by…albeit slowly.

Rather than share with you that one image and talk about how it changed my life, I thought I would share with you a few of the little moments that have shaped my 30 year photographic journey.


This image was part of three images I presented as my final project before graduating from university. I think I surprised a few people, including my professors. I was a very quiet student (for those of you who know me in person, feel free to laugh) and these images were a huge leap from the work I had previously turned in. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of exploring the joys of shooting photographs underwater for over 20 years. This is also where my love of film grain began. When you underexpose 400asa film and then enlarge it, you can really get the grain to pop and resemble a pointillist painting. I love the effect, but realize for most people raised in the crystal clarity of the digital age, it can be unsettling.

Between Friends 20-34

“Between Friends” by Shelly Corbett

“Between Friends” is the first time I realized that there was a huge gap between what I was seeing through the view finder of my trusty Nikonus and the image that appeared on the film. This gap went beyond the image shift that happens with a range finder camera, but bordered on capturing the unseen on film. I love that little bit of magic, and this is what makes photography to special to me.


“Faltering Voice” by Shelly Corbett

“Faltering Voice” is the first time the natural effects of the reflective surface that happens under the water line revealed itself in all its incredible beauty. I had glimpsed it in previous images, but to turn a simple arm into the wings of an angle was sheer magic. That reflective surface and I became the best of friends over the years.


“Stepping Out of Herself” by Shelly Corbett

“Stepping Out of Herself” will always be one of my favorite images. It is a photograph defined by a particular place and time that no amount of pre-visualization could have foreseen. It was another brief glimpse into what was possible.

5 copies Sophie 598-35

“She Be Wise” by Shelly Corbett

“She Be Wise” is an image that I consider a bridge image to my current work. It is a quiet image, an intimate glimpse into a hidden world. My work has always had a voyeuristic component to it. It doesn’t matter if I am photographing a women underwater or LEGO in a forest, I want the viewer to feel like an intruder into a world still filled with innocence, beauty and wonder.


“Untitled Portrait” by Shelly Corbett

This untitled portrait was taken about eight years ago and has never been shown before. I did a series of underwater shoots over a few months after my son was born. Lets just call them my farewell photos. Even though there are some spectacular photos in this final series, I will probably never show them and I am ok with that. I have found a measure of peace with the underwater images and I am ultimately very proud of what I created over 20 years of both film and digital images. I hope you enjoy this rare glimpse into what might have been.

Now, back to square one.


My First Lego Photo

If you have been following this blog or my Instagram feed for any length of time, then you have already seen this image. It’s not a very impressive image, but we all have to start somewhere.

IMG_5540 (1)

“How to Catch A Wiiman” by xxSJC

When I posted this image 140+ weeks ago, I had no idea the pandoras box I would be opening. It’s the first time I really interacted with the toy photography community. I connected with Dean80’s, Wiiman, Mad_Phoenix, Popapan, HerrK, Issogud.62, _me2_ and LegoJacker around this time and I am proud to say that they are still part of my Instagram family. Like Brett_Wilson, it is my friends and my community on Instagram that keep me going and inspire me daily.


“Every Villain is a Hera” by xxSJC

It was soon after the above photo was taken that I realized I was spending way too much time making my iPhone photos look like they were taken with a full size DSLR. So I broke down and took the Canon out of moth balls, purchased an inexpensive macro lens and got to work learning how this toy photography thing worked.


“I Will Be a Fisherman” by xxSJC

“I Will Be a Fisherman” is an image that I chased for several months and it taught me a valuable lesson:  pre-visualization and advanced planning are a good thing. l continue to struggle to find that middle ground between the magic of serendipity and the intense planning of pre-visualization. I need to dig deep and find the discipline to keep the balance. This is one of my favorite images of 2014 and now that my work is evolving again I realize this image was an important glimpse into what was possible. (Don’t worry, it does not escape my notice that this image was taken around water and I will explore that  connection in my next post.) 

Thank you for sticking around to the end of  this ridiculously long explanation go my “The One”. It’s been a long and rewarding journey for me and I enjoyed sharing it with you. In the mean time I look forward to the next time that flash goes off in my pitch black room of creativity and I find a moment of clarity within the chaos.

~ xxSJC