It was a bleak February in Seattle, and it was pouring rain. Jaime Del Pizzo was about to embark on an epic journey of 5,715 miles, punctuated by sought-after vantage points and hidden treasures overlooking the Pacific. She would be making most of the journey herself, accompanied by her dog, and although she had a rough idea of the route, she didn’t know what she’d find. “I felt unsure and anxious about the unknown,” she remembers now.
But Del Pizzo is no stranger to the unknown. For as long as she remembers, she’s been running toward challenges and obstacles rather than away from them. A passionate outdoorswoman, the artist has snowboarded countless mountains. She spent a summer abroad in New Zealand, and while working at a guest ranch in Wyoming, she devoted her time off to exploring wild hiking trails.
The photographer also happens to have been born with severe-to-profound bilateral hearing loss; she uses hearing aids and reads lips. “Being used to overcoming or failing at certain things led me to crave new ways of challenging and pushing myself,” Del Pizzo tells me. “Whether it is physically, mentally, artistically; I love the feeling of trying to do something I haven’t done before. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, that experience makes me feel strong.”
The 5,715-mile trip this year was inspired by her longing for a “grand adventure.” She’d just bought a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder and outfitted it with a bed in the back, and although she’d driven through Baja before, she’d never done the Pacific Coast Highway. The road trip was made possible, in part, by the artist’s NFT photography sales. Later, the pictures she made on the road would also find their way to the blockchain as part of the collection 5715 Miles of Coast. Some of them are still available to collect.
Del Pizzo spent a month making her way from Seattle to Cabo Pulmo and back, with two weeks in Mexico and the rest in the US. “I wanted to kind of take the minimal/rugged route for most of the trip, so I scoured the internet for free, primitive camp spots and places to park,” the artist says. “A lot of the spots I slept in were streets in neighborhoods.” Once she got to Baja, she headed to the beach.
As she had many times before, Del Pizzo let her eyes guide her. While she had pinpointed specific spots she wanted to see, she also remained open to surprises. “The best part about being completely free on the open road was that I had little restrictions,” she remembers. “A lot of these photographs were taken in moments where beauty presented itself and caught my eye.”
The photographer, like many others, prefers to shoot around the golden and blue hours at the beginning and end of the day, but she pushed herself to shoot in all weather and light during this month-long journey. Some of the pictures she created in the harsh, midday sun; in a few, you can see the ghost of a daytime moon.
At the Sea of Cortez in Baja, known for its calm waters and pink hills, she watched the sky turn violet at twilight. She felt waves so thunderous they made the ground shake. On a sunny day, cacti appeared to be undulating before her–a mirage caused by the heat. One night, she caught the shadow of a coyote moving just outside her camp. She shook in the presence of massive humpback whales.
“I think my hearing loss plays a very large role in how I see the world,” Del Pizzo reflects. “I think part of it is just the psychological differences of being born with one ‘less’ sense. The other part is how my body and mind make up for not being able to utilize that sense fully. To survive and adapt in this world, I am using my eyes much more than the average person. Because of that, I think perhaps I also see things that other people may not.”
The first picture in the 5715 Miles of Coast collection* was made early in the trip, during Del Pizzo’s second day on the road, when she was still feeling nervous and uncertain. “As I eventually reached the furthest South in Oregon–where I’d never driven before– the sky became fully clear after a day of rain,” she tells me. “The sun was starting to set, and I rounded a curve in the road that opened up to the stunning Oregon coast. With the waves backlit by the sun and the rock formations lit in brilliant golden hues, I immediately pulled over. It was the first moment on this trip where I felt like I was exactly where I should be.”
*This first image can be found at the top of this story.
All images © Jaime Del Pizzo