‘Ebb and Flow’ is a Calming Abstract Photo Series Featuring Water

As someone who was raised in the beauty of nature, landscape photographer TJThorne believes water photography helps him to experience a state of flow during his mental struggles.

Finding Solace in Nature Photography

Thorne spent his childhood in rural Pennsylvania. His backyard was full of forested land which allowed him to be playful and free. He climbed trees, wandered trails, and played in creeks.

But, his carefree youth was quickly replaced by many challenges. There were some things that are more normal and common in adulthood like working and paying bills. But there were also others that brought Thorne to his knees like anxiety, depression, worry, stress and alcoholism. But it is this beautiful and peaceful aspect of nature that has helped Thorne to bring back some peace into his life. Back in 2012, Thorne noticed the playful light on water and started to photograph it, but it wasn’t until 2017 that it became a conscious practice and grew into a project, “Ebb and Flow.”

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“The shooting of my water abstracts is driven by a need to fully immerse myself in the moment and get lost in my viewfinder,” Thorne tells PetaPixel. “Photography is primarily a tool for me to detach from the world and the stresses and struggles I face in order to find peace and solace. This is the best example of this process

Water is an ever-changing and versatile element which helps Thorne achieve a relaxed flow state. Thorne focuses his attention on water’s behavior and visual attributes such as reflections and direct sunlight.

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“I don’t go looking for water to shoot, it’s a reactionary pursuit to where I just feel compelled to point my camera at something that called to me so that I can spend intimate time with that moment,” he explains.

“That time spent is where I get everything I am looking for. The photos are just visual byproducts of the experience.”

Hundred Abstracts of Nature’s Driving Force

Thorne’s oldest “Ebb and Flow” collection photo dates back to 2016, with the most recent one taken in 2021. He doesn’t like to think of the series as a “project” — “because a project implies parameters such as a beginning and ends with a particular goal in mind” — the collection is more of an exploration. This collection has no limits and Thorne can engage with water in different ways.

With the open-endless of a collection like “Ebb and Flow” comes a downside. Thorne’s collection of abstracts from water had accumulated tens to thousands, each representing “soulful moments”, which he spent close to the water while holding a camera.

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” It was difficult to sort through so many and find those that were visually pleasing,” Thorne says. Despite that, he culled his water abstracts down to the final 100 pieces, all of which are available to view and buy on his website.

With “Ebb and Flow” concluded, for now, Thorne continues to question his future creative direction.

I have a lot of facets to my photography that I look at based on how they affect my emotions and my mental needs. One of these is my “Figments of Place”, which is more experimental and non-literal.

“So beyond navigating my changing creative process, I plan to continue to explore both nature and water, deepen my relationship with both myself and the natural world, and find gratitude in the opportunity that I get to do so. We’ll see where the light takes me.”

More of Thorne’s work can be found on his website and Instagram.


Image credits: Photos by TJ Thorne.

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