National Geographic : 2009 May
#4 in a Series STEPHEN Alvarez THE Places Beneath Although he’s photographed caves in exotic locales such as Oman, Belize, and Papua, New Guinea, the under- ground worlds of the southeastern United States are among Stephen Alvarez’s favorite. A native Tennessean who loved to go caving as a boy, Alvarez, today a National Geographic photographer, continues to be mesmerized by the subterranean wilderness. “I’m captivated by the fact that you can still explore spaces other people have never seen— which is a pretty cool thing to do in 2009.” Alvarez also dedicates his time to the conservation of caves, which are a valuable natural resource. By paying attention to the quiet places beneath the surface—namely his own heart—Alvarez propelled his successful career. “When I was a young photographer, people told me ‘you can’t possibly make a living doing what you want to do’ and encouraged me to work as a portrait photographer.” Following his own instincts, Alvarez ignored others’ well-meaning advice, and instead worked odd jobs that wouldn’t interfere with his photography. “I thought, no, I want to use pictures to tell stories that are important to me, and show people things that they can’t see. That decision to listen to myself and believe in what I do was so important.” Alvarez also credits returning to his Tennessee hometown as a major assistive force in his work. “I travel 150 days a year, and knowing that my wife and children have the support of my extended family gives me freedom and peace of mind. It’s probably one of the best decisions we ever made.” MassMutual understands the importance of making good decisions. A good decision can be a goal—or it can help you reach your goal. Either way, you need to feel conﬁdent. And when it comes to big decisions about your ﬁnances and your future—we know you want to make a good one. Our products and experience will help you get there. Photographs made possible by Through photographs, I can explain why a cave is more valuable intact than as gravel for a new highway.