“Artists have talked about the sea-distilled “wet light” in the Hamptons for more than 100 years. In the Hamptons, colors can appear more vivid or more muted than anywhere else in the world, yet on days when the sky is clear, the light seems to vibrate, virtually humming. The theory is that because the Hamptons are enveloped by sea and ponds and kettle holes, the luminous, rippling water patterns give off horizontal bands of light reflected by the water molecules, enhancing the ether.”

Steven Gaines,
Philistines at the Hedgerows

Is there anything better than walking on water?
This is not a rhetorical question. There is an affirmative answer. For the past four years I have been biking on the waters of East Hampton, mostly on the historic Three Mile Harbor, where these images are from, and also at Cedar Point, Accabonac Harbor, Louse Point, Sammy’s Beach, Sag Harbor, Northwest Harbor, Mecox Bay, Sunset Beach, and in The Atlantic off Georgica Beach (hairy!).

My vessel has been the Schiller water bike, designed and developed in Marin County CA in the very studio that Otis Redding recorded Dock of the Bay. The creator is Jessica Schiller, an environmental innovator who one day had the vision to bike across Golden Gate Bay to San Francisco. Multiple prototypes later, she had perfected her craft and primed it for commercial manufacturing.

Architect Lord Norman Foster has a Schiller on Martha’s Vineyard. In an essay for the design issue of Vanity Fair he wrote: “Some innovations are completely new discoveries – something never seen before. Others combine elements that already exist in a way no one has thought of before. The printing press, iPhone, and Schiller Water Bike all trace their heritage in a similar way.” Woohoo!

Before migrating to New York and East Hampton, I lived in New Zealand. Our family had a year-round weekender at Raumati South, north of the capital Wellington. Our end-of-day view was a horizon, the first oceanic horizon in the world over which the sun sets every day. In its own way, a definition of infinity. This observation became an idiosyncratic phenomenon to document.

On my Schiller, in East Hampton waters, the fascination was not with the horizon but the water itself and the abstract patterns thrown up to me by infinite movements inflected with light in the afternoon sun or at dusk. My motivation to ride came not only from the joy of this form of exercise, but from the pursuit of this very light.

East Hampton’s light has atmospherics. Sitting above the water on the Schiller, drifting (it’s a catamaran) and clicking, at times it’s levitational. My first career was as an impresario. Poet Sam Hunt was a client. He jested that he was in the business of being “cosmic, tangential, and existential.” The full package. Sam lived in a boathouse and tells a story about a local who walked on water across the mighty Cook Strait. From my experience, I can offer to this person, that biking might have been better.

Brian Sweeney’s book Paradise Road: Photographs 2000-2009 was published by Charta, Milan, in 2010, with an essay by Stuart McKenzie.

“Artists have talked about the sea-distilled “wet light” in the Hamptons for more than 100 years. In the Hamptons, colors can appear more vivid or more muted than anywhere else in the world, yet on days when the sky is clear, the light seems to vibrate, virtually humming. The theory is that because the Hamptons are enveloped by sea and ponds and kettle holes, the luminous, rippling water patterns give off horizontal bands of light reflected by the water molecules, enhancing the ether.”

Steven Gaines,
Philistines at the Hedgerows

“While we may have lost a religious outlook, there are certain modalities of nature that continue to move us on a symbolic and/or unconscious level. No doubt this is part of the power of Brian Sweeney’s photographs in Paradise Road. Even if we don’t view them through the eyes of faith, his keenly discriminated images of sky, clouds, horizons, mountains, water, and trees will nevertheless strike us with an atavistic sense of the sacred power of nature.”

Stuart McKenzie,
essay for Paradise Road

Paradise Road    |   Charta, Milan, 2010