When Jaimen Hudson was 17, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him quadriplegic and in a wheelchair. For someone who had grown up surfing and diving — his family owns Esperance Diving And Fishing in Western Australian — Hudson’s accident represented the end of participating in one of the activities that made him happiest.
Speaking to The Latch of the impact the potentially fatal accident has had on his outlook on life, Hudson said, “Once you’ve come close to the end of your life, you realise there is only one life, and you need to make the most of it.”
And make the most of it he has. Six years after Hudson’s accident, he discovered a passion for drone photography and, suddenly, he saw an opportunity to be reunited with the ocean in a way he never expected.
Now a respected aerial wildlife photographer and videographer who boasts 80,000 Instagram followers, Hudson’s inspiring life story is the subject of From Sky to Sea — a documentary set to premiere at the WA Made Film Festival on March 14.
The film, written and directed by Leighton De Barros, is both a visually stunning exploration of the unique Western Australian ocean ecosystems and a testament to human spirit as we journey with Hudson on his quest to become the world’s first underwater cinematographer with quadriplegia.
Speaking to The Latch about his unwavering optimism, Hudson recalled a recent conversation with his sister. “She said, ‘I remember when you were young you always said you wanted to do something great with your life,”’ Hudson explained. “And I didn’t know what that was. But I knew after my accident, I didn’t want that to stop.”
He continues, “The mind is the most powerful thing in the world. And I really feel mine is now bulletproof. If I’m having negative thoughts, I just have to remember to change my mindset and focus on the good. And it doesn’t take long to pull yourself out of that rut.”
Hudson credits his inspirational view on life, and its endless possibilities, to the support of his close-knit family and also some key factors which he recommends anyone who is facing adversity try to embrace.
“I definitely recommend trying to find yourself a job or a hobby because it’s nice to be contributing to life.” Hudson mused.
“I remember telling my mum when I was in hospital that I wanted to hate going to work on Mondays just like everyone else. And she would always remind me of that when I was trying to swindle out of going into work,” he laughed.
Hudson has also found comfort in maintaining a sense of perspective. He explained, “It was hard when I was in hospital, because there were so many people that had broken their neck in the exact same spot I had, but had done no damage to the spinal cord. So they’d be in there for a few weeks and then they’d walk out. And as a kid, of course, I would ask ‘why me’?, ‘why did I deserve this?’ And the answer is I didn’t deserve it, I was just very unlucky.”
He continued, “But on the flip side of that there were people in there that had broken their necks higher than me, and they could no longer move their arms at all and they had to have a ventilator breathe for them. That could have very easily been me. So, not that you ever want to find solace in someone else’s glum, but what you should do is think, ‘well that person is still having a go of it, what’s my excuse?’”
For Hudson, whose passion for the ocean, its wildlife and the great outdoors, is palpably evident in From Sky to Sea, part of the allure comes from the fact that, in terms of photographing them, you only get one shot. In fact, his mantra on this element to his profession could just as easily apply to life in general, as it does to his craft.
“The beauty of wildlife is that it’s not always there and there are no second takes. You can’t ring up the whale and say ‘actually, can you just redo that for me?’”, he laughs. “It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time, being persistent in your search, and then trying to capture it the best you can as it unfolds in front of you.”
The theme of being in the right place at the right time has certainly played a significant role in Hudson’s life — both in meeting De Barros who felt compelled to tell Hudson’s story, and in meeting his wife, Jess, with whom he now shares a son.
“I have never in my life loved anything as much as that little boy,” Hudson confessed (making this journalist tear up in the process). “Everything he does in my eyes is just perfect. Seeing the world through his eyes is just beautiful. What’s mundane to us, is magic to a little kid so it’s quite special.”
For Hudson, who next plans to create a miniseries that sees him exploring and capturing the stunning Western Australia’s islands, his hope is that people take away a very important lesson from both his film and his experience in general.
“Hopefully I encourage people to think ‘shit, if he’s doing all of this, why don’t I get out and do something?,’” he said. “Life is beautiful, so all I would love for people to get out of it is just to make the most of every waking moment and to hopefully know that the world is a beautiful place.”
From Sky to Sea will be in select theatres from March 18. Click here for more information.