Westport resident's marine photos go on display
Allen Clark and his wife, Daniela, were trailing a fleet of sailboats off the coast of Newport, R.I., two years ago when dark, ominous clouds began forming overhead.
The wind was picking up, too, and within an hour, 10-foot waves were crashing over the side of the couple's motorboat. A nor'easter, it turned out, was barreling in from the shore.
However, Clark, who was on assignment to photograph the J-80 World Championship sailing competition, had no intention of heading back to land; he knew it would be the perfect opportunity to get one of those "crazy shots."
"When conditions are extreme, all of your adrenaline gets involved and everything gets a little more exciting," Clark, of Westport, said. "I wanted to keep shooting that day because I knew the photos were going to look great."
A shot taken that afternoon, "Surf's Up," is on view in "Under Sail" -- a collection of Clark's high color and classic sepia images that capture dramatic, sometimes dangerous, moments at sea.
The exhibition, Clark's first solo show, is on view at the Gallery at Greenwich Tavern through Monday, Sept. 10.
More InformationCLARK SHOW The Gallery at Greenwich Tavern, 392 E. Putnam Ave, Old Greenwich. On view through Sept. 10. 203-698-9033, www.photosbyclark.com/show, www.greenwichtavern.net.
A lifelong sailor who forged a career as a marine photographer, Clark spends more than 100 days a year on the water. He has photographed regattas from New England to the Florida Keys. On occasion, weather conditions at the events can take a tumultuous turn -- a situation that, while difficult to navigate, can make for compelling images.
"Every one of my photos is the result of a carefully calculated position I put myself in on the water," said Clark, who handles assignments through Photoboat.com, his photography company. "I have to pay attention to the wind direction, waves and current, sun angle, clouds, the shadows created by the sails and even the sail trim and position of the people on board."
Fortunately, Clark doesn't have to go it alone -- his wife, Daniela, is always there at the helm.
"We're a team, 100 percent," he said.
In addition to turbulent scenes, Clark captures tranquil moments that reflect the sparkling beauty of the water. Taken during a sailing race near Block Island, R.I., "Red Balloon" is an image of a red spinnaker set aglow by the sun.
The juxtaposition of contrasting moods in "Under Sea" illustrates the unpredictability of the ocean.
"You can look at the forecast, but you're not going to know what it's going to be like until you get out there," Clark said.
The exhibition is curated by Leslie Mueller, a Greenwich resident who, in recent years, has opened the doors of the Greenwich Tavern to a bevy of local artists. When Mueller first saw Clark's pieces, she wondered "how he was able to all those amazing shots."
"He's frozen the action in time and he has a passion for it," Mueller said.
Clark's passion goes back to his childhood, when he learned how to sail and, as a teen, when he became an instructor at Longshore Sailing School in Westport. He has sought out adventure on the water -- and documented his experiences -- ever since.
"There's a feeling of openness and freedom when I'm on my boat," Clark said. "People you're photographing have the same feeling, and you're trying to capture that."
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