Pierre Carreau's connection to the ocean stems back to his days as a surfer waiting for just the right wave to arrive. "Sitting on your board, touching the water—something very special happens," he says. The closer he is to the ocean, the more at peace he feels.
When he was looking for an artistic outlet after ten years as a commercial photographer, it was no surprise that he turned to the ocean as his muse. He wanted to make a difference with his images but wasn't interested in shining a light on the problems of the world. "What I really want to share is something more positive," he says. "For me the only solution [to the word's problems] is to give energy to people so we can have a good life."
Living on the island of St. Barts afforded Carreau plenty of opportunity to be surrounded by water, but the challenge lay in honing his photographic vision. He likens the process of putting together the elements of the project to solving a puzzle. He wanted something with universal appeal that was also unique, beautiful to look at but layered with meaning and nuance, emotionally evocative without being overpowering.
Slowly he developed his style while trying different techniques. Frustrated at times with the two dimensionality of still photography, he found a way to create images where water and light meet to create something that approaches a sculptural object—textured and tactile. Waves are living water, he says. And no two are alike.
The photographs Carreau made became a series he calls "AquaViva," and one of the greatest pleasures he's gotten thus far is seeing one of his photographs framed on a wall for others to view (his preferred size is five feet by three feet). That and receiving thank you notes from people who've been touched by the energy the images convey.
"It's what I want to feel in my everyday life—to share good moments, to see beautiful things," he says. He likens the experience to smiling at a stranger and receiving a smile in return. "It's free. It's natural. It's a way to express that we live together and we can share good things. Even if we are different the most important thing in life is the other—because the other is a reflection of you."
See more of Pierre Carreau's work on his website.
Alexa Keefe is a senior photo editor for National Geographic.