The Sid Jacobson JCC unveiled its new photography exhibit “In the Deep” Sunday, displaying Daniel Weiss’s photos capturing the feelings of the waves on the South Shore of Long Island.
Weiss’ photos in the exhibit were created during the early moments of the COVID-19 pandemic when being outside was really his only option to escape.
“What it provided more than anything, the notion of creating a show or body of work was secondary, it was just a place of solace, a place of peace and dealing like the rest of the world with this very scary pandemic,” Weiss said. “It was a place to find a little respite from all the news, all the terrible stories.”
Weiss’s two sons had a newfound love of surfing and he had overheard that a swell was coming due to a storm. So he went down one morning and as he got about two blocks away from the shore, he was overcome by the sound of the crashing waves.
It was at that moment that Weiss said he became mesmerized with the environment and inspired to create a type of portrait of what he was experiencing.
Another day soon after he returned with his waterproof camera and did just that.
“The thing I love most about the project is being able to witness nature unfolding in front of me as it’s happening,” said Weiss, who is from Brooklyn.
What Weiss captures distinctly in his photos are the colors of the waves. He said he aiming to achieve a feeling of the ocean rather than a distinct and recognizable visual one may typically expect.
“I’m trying to really capture feeling and how I feel and what I see in the moment,” Weiss said.
While Weiss is immersed in his photography work capturing waves with his camera, he is also physically immersed in it as well.
To get his shot, Weiss swims out past the shore, equipped with a thick wetsuit, pair of gloves, boots, hood and his waterproof camera.
“No matter what it feels like, when I get out [of the water] there is a sense of peace that always washes over me and certainly a sense of accomplishment, too,” Weiss said.
He shoots year-round so his method of capturing the shot depends on the weather, providing a diversity in the feelings he captures.
“When I’m out there, I’m really trying to capture a sense of what it feels like in that moment,” Weiss said. “Some days it’s very peaceful, beautiful and serene, and I can see that in some of the images, and sometimes it’s scary. It’s big, it’s dark, I go out before the sun is up and that day maybe the image feels more mysterious and dark.”
This exhibit was originally founded through escapism, but then a body of work was formed and Weiss said he was inspired to continue pursuing it. Even though pandemic restrictions have eased and the need for escapism has diminished for many people, he said photographing the waves is still “a gift” he gives himself when he can.
Jaime Teich, vice president of brand strategy and communications for SJJCC, oversees the center’s gallery and was presented with Weiss’s portfolio for a potential exhibit. She said that his work is phenomenal and she wanted to bring him into the center.
“I wanted to honor his talent here and on our walls as a community artist and as someone who has such incredible, beautiful skill,” Teich said.
Weiss, a former actor, first got involved in photography when his wife gifted him a photography class for his 30th birthday in 2006. About two weeks into the class, he took a photo of a skateboarder silhouetted by the sun and was in disbelief that he had taken it.
“There’s something very tangible about photography that acting didn’t offer, and in that moment I decided to change careers,” Weiss said.
He has been a professional, full-time photographer since 2008.
Weiss will be hosting two photography sessions with the SJJCC: an underwater photo session in the JCC pool, teaching attendees how to take photos underwater, and an offshore walking tour where Weiss will teach attendees how he takes pictures of the shore.
Teich said the sessions do not have scheduled dates yet but will be announced soon.
While Weiss’ “In the Deep” gallery will only be on display through the end of March, he will be hosting another gallery at the SJJCC in April, featuring portraits he has taken of 18 Holocaust survivors to honor them.
Weiss’ photos from his “In the Deep” exhibit are for sale and can be purchased by contacting the SJJCC front desk at (516) 484-1545. Twenty percent of sales go to the JCC.