The Story Behind the Rescue Swimmer Silhouette
The Rescue Swimmer Silhouette has been circulating the internet HARD for 15 years and yet not may people know anything about it. I am guessing people might be curious where this thing came from. Was it an illustration someone put together? A photoshop creation? Did a military member put it together, or just some random? Well, here’s a little behind the scenes of the photograph.
For all of you that don't know me... yes, I've been a Helicopter Rescue Swimmer (#526) in the Coast Guard for over 22 years. I also went to college for photography at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale while stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Miami. Not too long after that I had a wedding photography business for a few years. When I couldn’t stomach a never ending amount of work hanging over my head from the year prior, and what was in store for the year ahead, I went on to start an editorial photography business. With that business, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to create portraits of professional athletes for the NBA magazine SLAM, and the UFC.
I was technically sound with photography fundamentals when I left college, but never really got a chance to be as creative as I wanted with using off camera flash. When I transferred to Air Station Atlantic City, I bought my own lighting equipment and was excited to see what I could produce with the new toys. The Rescue Swimmer Silhouette was really the first photograph I ever produced where I was able to have full control over the creativity of an idea and use equipment outside of a classroom. I had visualized ideas for a week or two trying to think of something to create... the silhouette against the flag was what I came up with. I had been a rescue swimmer almost 7 years by that time. I had these new skills and the ability to now imagine something and make it a reality. I am extremely passionate about the things I choose to do in life…like being a Rescue swimmer, and doing photography. I don't think it was a coincidence that I chose to combine the two things I loved the most for my first project.
I asked two friends if they wanted to help me out (free beer), and we got together for about 8 hours one night. I lit the flag as evenly as I could and rigged up my buddy, who was also a rescue swimmer, to a makeshift cable. Another friend was moving lights around and stabilizing the swimmer as he spun around in front of the flag.
I shot hundreds of photos of him in different positions reaching down. My friend that was stabilizing the swimmer said, "Hey man, what do you think if I reach my hand up as he reaches down?" …and there you have it. The hand reaching up wasn't even my idea. The image was originally planned to be shot vertically with the flag hanging stripes down, but we just couldn't make it happen. Same composition with the swimmer balancing against the stars, but we made it work the only way we could.
That week I posted it to Facebook and from there it quickly caught fire in the swimmer world. Over the past 15 years let’s just say the image has made it's way around the internet a few times over…
I came to feel a bit like I let it walk away, or that I abandoned it. I own the copyright and trademark that's in process, of course, but I do consider this photo to belong to all of us in the rescue swimmer community. It represents who we are.
Anyway, I am taking back control of the image, and giving it a home base. I gave this project a lot of thought before jumping in. I owned another T-shirt company at one point, and I bit off way more than I could chew, wasting a lot of hard-earned money in the process. I now see it as a blessing though, as I have solid experience knowing what not to do with apparel. :) Funny how past failures in life could potentially lead to future success. Truthfully, I said I would never get into the clothing industry again. I feel an obligation to make it accessible to everyone, and for me to feel happy and proud of it... not upset because it's on another website and I wasn't able to provide it to you.
I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my passions, and it can pose a problem at times. However, it seems that the community wants this, and I figure the guy that created it should probably be the person to put it out there for you, right?
My goal here is to produce high quality, custom, and original apparel we can all enjoy… Not some website where someone uploaded one picture and slapped it on 60 products, including one ply toilet paper…
Importantly, I want to say thank you to all of you! The only reason I'm doing this is because of the incredible response from you guys! This site has been up for 24 hours as I write this, and almost 400 people visited it today. People started signing up for the newsletter before I had even posted a single photo! I am utterly flattered and grateful for the following this photograph has received.
We’ll be launching ASAP... trust me! I can’t wait to make our apparel available to you in short order, but I also want to put something out there we can all be proud to wear for many years to come.
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