It’s not often someone can merge two lifelong hobbies into a career path, especially one that allows for so many people to reap the benefits. Jupiter resident Richard Auger has combined his passion for nature and aquatics with photography to create striking images that are sure to convince even the biggest skeptic that Florida is so much more than sky-high palms and grandiose beaches.
“There’s so much to Florida that people don’t know exists,” says the 38-year-old photographer. “We have one of the most diverse, beautiful aquifer systems in the world. Photographing Florida—wild and unseen Florida—has allowed me to communicate what this place has meant to me my whole life.”
Born and raised in South Florida, Auger grew up swimming in natural springs, scuba diving in the Keys, and fishing with his family. Although he had always been interested in taking photos, his first—and only—official photography training came in the form of a high school darkroom class. His natural talent was immediately apparent: He won a Gold Key regional award from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for a black-and-white infrared photo he shot in the Florida Everglades.
He went on to attend Florida State University, where he completed a business degree as his passion for photography continued to grow. When he graduated and took his first “adult job” in accounting, his priorities began to shift back to his roots. “I had been doing photography all along for fun, a little something here and there,” he says of the two years he spent working as an accountant. “I did the Winter Park [Sidewalk Art Festival] as an ‘emerging artist,’ and I just blew out everything I brought on the first day. A few months after that, I quit my job and started doing art shows full-time.”
His first series as a professional photographer, titled Florida Noir, was shot entirely on black-and-white film from 2010 to 2014 and earned Auger more than $60,000 at juried art competitions. The series includes images from all over the state—from the Panhandle to the Keys, and several rivers and springs in between. “It was a love letter to Florida,” he says. “I shot that series to make art, not to sell it, but it did really well anyway.”
Over his 10-plus-year career, Auger has toggled between film and digital photography, recently adding aerial and underwater equipment to his tool belt. The fresh perspective has allowed him to showcase certain ecosystems—like a coral reef several miles off Dry Tortugas National Park or the hidden creeks of the St. Johns River—in a new and unique way.
“There’s a lot to discover out there,” the artist says of his subject matter, which is almost exclusively Florida naturescapes and currently focuses on vibrant colors and panoramic shots captured with digital equipment. “I’ll go out at 4 in the morning and wait for the sun to hit the sabal palms in the middle of nowhere. It’s a great experience.”
Text by Tracy Marcello