Three by the Sea

salton sea long exposure black and white seascape by Johnny Kerr
Three By The Sea / California, 2017


One of my favorite things about the last couple seascapes I’ve released is the memories I associate them with, specifically the road trip shared with a dear friend.

I’ve never really had a companion accompany me on a photography expedition before because it takes a special kind of patience and contentment to hang around while I lose myself in the pursuit. Matt not only had these qualities, but he also enriched our experience through his own exploration. While I knelt in soggy fish bones on the shore of the Salton Sea to compose this image, he walked the shore reading poetry and writing in his journal. In the car rides between sites, we processed together our unique reflections of our respective experiences from the last location. I shared my impressions from the subject and environment I was photographing, and he shared bits of the poetry he was reading or his journal reflections processing the experience. I have no doubt that our mutual sharing positively affected the work each of us was doing. Truly edifying.

iPhone snap of Matt, reading poetry and writing while I work the scene.


The title of this image has a dual meaning for me. There’s the obvious literal meaning, which the viewer can easily grasp by looking at the image. Then, there’s the more personal meaning. As I mentioned above, I typically work alone. Just me with my camera and my subject. But this trip was enriched by my traveling companion. When I think “three by the sea” it brings to mind the two of us, plus a third, intangible force that no doubt impacted my images from this trip. The connection and shared experiences between us was almost like a third companion. A quote commonly attributed to Aristotle says it well:

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Thank you, Matt, for making these images, and the experiences of creating them, “greater than.”

Behind the scenes: the shores of the Salton Sea are not sandy. They are made up of decades of pulverized fish bones. This particular shore was marshy and soggy as the water had only recently receded. I used an old art bin that I luckily had in my trunk to keep my gear dry and avoid kneeling in this wet fish graveyard while I composed my low-angle shot.


Closeup detail of Three by the Sea. You can clearly see the shore is all fish bones, not sand. The wooden planks coming out of the water were once submerged in the salty lake, but the water continues to drastically recede each year.