Through the Lens of Taro Smith | Environmental Advocacy Through Photography
Taro Smith is a man of many, many interests. He works as an artist and photographer and is also the co-founder of Boulder Cycle Sport and 90 Monkeys, an online yoga school, as well as co-owner of Pro Peloton, another cycling store in Boulder. A University of Colorado Boulder graduate with a Ph.D. in Integrative Physiology, Smith has an extensive background in the health and wellness industry, and promoting health and wellbeing are two of his greatest passions. While at first some of these interests may seem unrelated, Smith explains that almost everything he does stems from three main life goals he has for himself.
To “help solve the healthcare crisis through movement and contemplative practices, harness the arts to help catalyze change for our environment, and to do what I enjoy while living life to the fullest.”
Smith believes that the idea of the “Renaissance Man” is one of the keys to unlocking human potential as having a plethora of interests can lead to the discovery of new connections and also to more creative thinking.
Smith began scuba diving when he was 12 years old and, shortly after, he received his first underwater camera, a Nikonos film camera for his 14th birthday. This series of events was a catalyst for the work Smith does today, which focuses on marine life and the juxtaposition of sea creatures with humans in a way that reminds the viewer that we all are sharing the same planet, the same space. Smith delved deeply into this work after helping with the world’s first fashion shoot that posed action models in the same frame as whale sharks. After the photos’ publication, the images’ reception and the awareness they brought to the issue of shark finning had a profound impact on Smith, as well as the direction of his photography.
“Many people don’t realize that 90% of the world’s shark populations have been decimated because of the demand for shark fin soup,” says Smith.
“Having a surreal image of a human subject sharing the same space as these big, amorphous creatures helped to change the narrative. They are not aliens, but rather beautiful cohabitants of our planet who deserve to be protected.”
Soon after the fashion photo shoot, Smith’s partner, Amy Ippoliti, wanted to find a way to get involved with Smith’s new artistic direction. Ippoliti, along with being a renowned yoga teacher, has also been a lifelong animal right and earth activist. Smith’s desire to promote awareness around the protection of marine life was a passion the two of them shared. Together, they brainstormed about what might be a useful direction to take, and they concluded that they should find a way to engage the yoga community, which Smith describes as “always down for a good cause.” They embarked on a mission of making images of marine life juxtaposed with Ippoliti holding various yoga poses. To create these other-worldly images, Ippoliti trained for months freediving and learning to hold yoga poses underwater. The process of making these images is incredibly time-consuming as it depends on the physical location of the marine animals, with one image often taking days on the water to create. The couple’s incredible effort has been worth it, however, as it has generated the type of conversation Smith was initially hoping for, prompting comments from a diverse body of people, widening one another’s horizons and educating each other.
Smith’s love for his work is apparent, both in the time he commits to making images and the excitement he has for what he does.
“I feel so lucky to be able to tie so many things I care about together, and to go on so many wild adventures!”
Smith travels extensively for his artistic work, something that inspires endless exploration, creativity and joy.