On January 1, 2011 I ventured out to Coney Island to photograph people participating in the New Years Day Polar Bear Swim. I had been photographing at Coney for a few years at this point and always found the brave souls who would venture into the ocean on a freezing day fascinating.
Towards the end of this particular occasion I saw a woman in a bright pink robe exiting the water while holding a slightly deflated balloon. The brightness of the colors she wore were a perfect counterpoint to the grey winter sky and water behind her.
As I walked towards her, I raised my camera and made this photo, and then said hello and asked if I could make another. Someone else was also making photos of her, and she explained to me that she was also a photographer. She told me her name, I wrote it down and when I finally scanned the image of her, I emailed her the file. She thanked me for reminding her of the freezing weather.
That is the extent of my interaction with her. Two frames of film, and nine words from her. The photo is one of my very favorite. This evening, February 7, 2014 I received an email inviting to a ceremony to remember Guler.
How could I forget Guler, even though I did not know anything about her other than that she wore a pink robe at the beach in the winter and was a photographer. I searched her name on the web and found out that she was murdered by a hit and run driver on New Years Eve a few weeks ago.
I didn't know Guler, but I am deeply saddened that she is gone. The outpouring of love for her that I read in news accounts was touching and heart wrenching.
Often the people that I photograph pass by unknown to me, except for the spark of recognition that I see when I notice them and make an exposure. I know that there was something about Guler that drew me to photograph her, beyond the pink robe. Her directness and the pride she seemed to exude after completing a frigid plunge into the Atlantic Ocean as a way of starting off a new year, bold and brave. It's a shame that she did not get to begin a new year this year.
I know now that what I knew of Guler was enough. That one should face every year, every month, every week, every day, every hour and every minute with the same boldness and bravery that she so certainly felt on that day in 2011. We never know which day will be our last, so live each minute to the fullest, touch as many people as you can, love those that are special to you, and have compassion to all. As we walk upon this earth you never know which of us will suddenly become important to one another.
I remember Guler, even though I didn't know her, she has been a part of my life since the day I made this photo, as are all of the others that I have photographed over the years. I photograph to connect in some small way to others, and this photo proves to me just how important those connections can be.
Please go here to learn more: http://www.rememberguler.org/