This Photographer Broke His Back 2 Years Ago… And Got Back Up


Kevin Steele is a Santa Barbara-based commercial photographer whose clients include The North Face, Nike, Patagonia, Oakley and more. This is his story.

Steele’s words are below:

Two years ago today changed my life in ways that I am still appreciating. While on a commercial shoot in Cabo: a slip, a fall off a ledge to a rocky sea cliff, 5 vertebrae broken, another cracked. Linda flew down immediately — support from her and friends and the production crew was wonderful.

A surgeon from Cedar Sinai flew down and grafted the titanium into this man of steele in a 6 hour operation. Incredibly, I was back with camera on hand on a job 2 months later. Six months later pain free, no meds and regaining flexibility with short runs. A year out fully recovered and 2 years out: surfing, running, climbing and startling the TSA Scanner employees.

Death and pain can happen in an instant, an awareness I embrace: it drives me to live fully. A tattoo running the length of my forearm is etched “Let everything happen to you – Beauty and terror – Just keep going – no feeling is final”.

Time moves quickly: my sons are now men, my father has passed, my life has a beautiful new love and the energy to create seems limitless. In a few days we leave for some of the largest shoots of my career: to Georgia and then overseas to the West Indies.

This abstract photo was the last frame from my camera as I pressed the shutter during my tumble, throwing the camera up and away from me. It’s now a six foot print in the living room: beauty, terror and life anew.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.