Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Feature Stories
Written by Eric Taubert
If you've ever flown into Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, chances are you're familiar with the work of Alan Maltz, the Official Wildlife Photographer of the State of Florida. All of the stunning photographs displayed in the Midfield Terminal were taken by Mr. Maltz. You know the ones...roseate spoonbills and ospreys amidst water reflections and backdrops of supernaturally lit skies. As soon as you get off the plane, these photos remind you why you've come home to Southwest Florida again. We live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Visions of Beauty - Fort Myers, Sanibel & Beyond... is the fourth large-format Florida photography book by Maltz, and it contains all of the images you've fallen in love with at our local airport plus a whole bunch more. It also contains a short bit of writing that leaves me scratching my head in confusion.
The Charles Sobczak penned Introduction on the first few pages of the book begins:
"Alan Maltz is not a photographer. He is a painter. His canvas is film, his colors are confident and his choice of subjects as varied as the landscapes of Florida. When you look at Maltz's paintings, beautifully exhibited in this, his newest portfolio of work, they are not what most photographers attempt to portray. Most photographers try to capture reality. Alan Maltz reveals the reality we wish for..."
With all due respect, Mr. Sobczak, I fervently disagree. As I meander through the pages of this formidable, and enviable, collection of Southwest Florida photographs, what I see are the best moments of Real Florida. Real moments. Reality. This is the Florida I breathe, and see, and touch, and appreciate in fleeting moments of mindfulness every single day.
I fumble out of bed, puffy eyes and mussed hair, open the blinds and pause at the magnificent whorls of fire-touched air in constant motion. Time, routine, and progress yield to my reverence for visual splendor. My eyes grope at another once in a lifetime sunrise. Behind the scenes, my mind archives the optical snapshot, freezing the humid morning into a single image and tucking it away into the boxes of memory-pictures cluttering the closets of my brain. Then I forget about if for awhile and get ready for the day.
In the car, commuting to work, it's overcast until the sun breaks through the clouds and halo rays of diffused light share sky-space with dancing lightning. Deep thunder rumbles. I can feel it in my flesh as I mentally preserve the short-lived stormscape teasing me with its ephemeral details.
An evening trip to the beach with my wife. Egrets and pelicans. An osprey soars overhead waiting for the proper moment to dive and feed. Lemon and lime margaritas blur our taste buds and help us watch the gold, pink and purple melt across a horizon of tidal indigo. The birds still flirt with the dusk and true love still finds its meaningful embrace as the sky dips darker and beach house lights illuminate windows, one at a time, like stars.
Red wine and a few spare thoughts...Rustling, rattling, low clouds and damp, warm air through the palm fronds, the world turns forever delivering the forced tomorrow. Air conditioned houses numb our skin and experiences. Sultry moonlight dew and the scents of blooming and decomposing vegetation always hide themselves behind pulled shades. We do the pulling.
Why do we pull?
Why are we so interior?
Even while we're inside, eyes glued to the TV's blue tint, Real Florida continues to morph and shapeshift through phases of heart-crushing, meteoric, allure. Even while no one's paying attention. Even while we're asleep, or blind to the world, or preoccupied by the minutiae of the petty ups and downs of our everyday lives...this is when Florida's alive...this is Always. Why aren't you paying attention?
Take the paintings of the Florida Highwaymen, breathe life into them, watch them pulse and move until they become the Real Florida places that inspired their creation. Stop a single moment in time, and realize you're looking at a real photograph of Real Florida taken by Alan Maltz. Thank God someone's paying attention.
There are plenty of articles out there, filled with interviews and painstaking details of the techniques Alan Maltz uses to capture his iconic images of Florida. Google his name if that's what you're looking for. To me, it's one piece of advice he offered during an interview, with Jerry Currier of Double Exposure, which resonates most deeply: "Proceed with passion, and set your alarm clock so you can be on location before sunrise, ready for first light."
We need to make and keep appointments with the beauty surrounding us. We need to break our routines. We need to wake up. We need to clear our minds of the clutter and keep them open to the possibility of experiencing the sensation of beauty.
If you go looking for Real Florida - Real Florida is what you'll find. It's not the "reality we wish for", it's the reality that's out there, perfect in its patterns and textures...even perfect in its imperfections. And the more you see of it, the more you'll want to protect it. Don't believe me? Go outside and take a look right now.
Purchase a copy of Visions of Beauty - Fort Myers, Sanibel & Beyond... at http://www.alanmaltz.com. It can also be purchased at Amazon.
And please let me stress: This article is in no way a condemnation of Charles Sobczak. Sobczak's writing and passion for conservation have affected Southwest Florida in overwhelmingly positive ways. He has emerged as one of the few, inspiring, honest, and local voices speaking out about what's at stake because of the recent BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico...and for this, I commend him. Sobczak is a lifetime member of Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, President of Lee Reefs, Past President of START (Solutions to Avoid Red Tide) and the Sanibel Island Fishing Club. He is also a member of PURRE (People United to Restore our Rivers and Estuaries) and an avid offshore angler. I thank him for everything he does. And I know he sees the Real Florida, too. If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Sobczak, visit his website at: http://www.indigopress.net
— writing by Eric Taubert
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