William Goodwin

“Peppermint Shrimp in Vase Sponge”


The Peppermint Shrimp is a natural recluse that lives its entire life inside the same bouquet of sponges. This tiny creature essentially taught me what kind of approach it would accept, and then it permitted me, a giant from another world, to share a brief moment of intimacy within its private realm. Capturing this hidden tableau required that I hang upside down just above the vertical sponge while maintaining precise buoyancy control, holding my breath for silence and steadiness, gripping and operating the camera with one hand, and aiming the video light with my other hand so that the interior of the thin-walled sponge was illuminated from without while taking great care not to touch the sponge, even lightly, with any part of my body or equipment. To touch it would have raised detritus from within the sponge, frightened the fidgety inch-long shrimp back into the depths of its lair, and harmed the sponge. The interior of the vase was dim, the ambient light was confined to the blue end of the spectrum, the depth of field under those conditions was paper-thin, and at 75 feet deep my total time on-site was limited to about ten minutes. So, while restrained by physics and physiology, I was compelled by the beauty and the challenge.

Selected by Julian Cox, Curator of Photography and Chief Curator at the de Young Museum, San Francisco.