The last six months have seen Thirroul photographer Ray Collins’ profile skyrocket, and he still can’t believe it.
The former coal miner is currently exhibiting a series of seascapes along a beach in Zingst, Germany, for the Umweltfotofestival (environmental photo festival). He was presenting the series in person and speaking about his relationship with the ocean and how it has shaped his life and his art.
This year Collins’ photos will have taken him to new audiences in New York, Florence, China and Germany.
Last Friday Collins posted a heartfelt photo to Instagram, standing in front of his beach exhibition with a compelling caption of what he wanted to tell his younger self.
“The poor, government housing commission, single parent kid who was jolted through over half-a-dozen different public schools; who was unsure about what the future held, (what the next meal was?) unsure of my identity, unsure if I was good enough, if I would make my father proud … I’d show young Ray this,” he wrote.
“And tell him ‘everything you wish for will come, you will be given the desires of your heart … you’ll travel to the places you’ve only dreamed and read about, you’ll make a living doing what you love, you will find success’.”
Collins continued the post by giving credit to the sea for breaking the “curse of suicide and alcoholism” that has plagued his family.
“Thank God for the ocean,” he said.
The post has generated more than 300 comments of support on Instagram and more than 8,200 likes.
“Lost for words, mind blown, I truly hope i run into [you] one day to give you a hug,” wrote Jakob Dezwart.
“Your story is truly inspiring and encouraging,” posted Caroline Becker.
“I relate so much and every day you inspire me countless times,” wrote Tanner Brown.
Earlier this year Collins was featured in the Patagonia film Fishpeople which has been picked up by Netflix. The documentary by the adventure retailer profiled six people from around the world whose playground is the ocean.
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Collins only bought his first camera 10 years ago when a knee injury left him out of work and bored. From not knowing anything about photography he quickly developed a knack for capturing nuances of light and the ocean’s form.
He has since won a slew of awards; been featured in numerous publications like Vogue, the New York Post and CNN; and has had companies like Apple, Nikon, Isuzu and Red Bull use his signature seascapes.
Collins has released two books of his works: Found At Sea and Water & Light; and has now given up working underground for life as a full-time photographer.