If you, like us, happen to have a penchant for both surfing and breathtaking photographs, Chris Grundy is a name that should be familiar.
Chris is part of a new generation of photographers who grew up shooting the ocean and the group of lunatics dedicating their lives riding its folds, whilst bringing another take on surf photography. One that has room for experimentation, whether it is with compositions, angles, equipment and every other component that make an image unique. If you’re familiar with Chris’ work, you’ll understand what we mean. Whether he’s shooting the ocean in all its fury, a black and white portrait or a classic surf photograph in full daylight, Chris’ images definitely carry a mood, a mystique of its own that makes it easily recognisable.
We recently found ourselves on the East Coast of Australia. In the lovely town of Wollongong, New South Wales, to be precise. And whilst thinking of who we really wanted to link up with on our quick stint down under, Chris’ name came up, naturally. After all, how couldn’t you want the man as your tour guide after seeing the collection of insane locations constantly displayed on his Instagram profile? Following the purchase of an Opus card and a few days of text exchanges trying to find a free window in Chris’ schedule, our meeting is set at a left wedge that we’ll tame the name, but that many will recognise.
The patch of reef is a favourite for many and as we’re rocking up, the likes of Chippa Wilson, Benny Howard and Jamie Krups are all seemlessly sliding into perfect 4 ft wedges leaving them only two options; tuck under the lip, or race toward the end section and launch into the flat.
The spectacle was such a beautiful sight that we had to appoint a sequel a few days later, resulting in us linking with the likes of Dion Agius, Harry Bryant, Wade Goodall, Benny Howard, Jamie Krups, Ben Penny and more. We’ll leave you with Chris’ photographs from that morning which do justice far better than our words could offer, as well as a little chat below that should help get you acquainted with the man himself.
You know you have a special connection with the South Coast of NSW. How often do you get out of the city and head toward this zone to shoot?
I saw a South Swell building down the line, so I tuned in with JK (Jamie Krups) to see if he was keen to link up and create some work as he just got back from a 6-week stint in the US. JK picked me up in the early hours of the morning alongside Ben Penny and James Kates and we all crammed in and ventured down South for the day for what looked like a fun day of waves.
It all depends with work in Sydney, but if I know there’s a swell that looks promising, I’ll try keep a pocket clear to shoot or link up with some crew down there. Sometimes you get skunked, but either way it’s nice to get outside of the city and hit the South Coast. Beats the Sydney crowds and there’s so much more on offer in that zone. There’s not many times I regret the early call up to go chase waves down South. Winters always fun!
Can you tell us about your journey from starting photography to where you’re at now?
It all started in my late teens, when I was trying to put together a concept for my Visual Arts major in School. I thought photography might be an interesting medium to express my creativity, so I asked my dad if he had an old camera lying around at home. He handed me his old Nikon F801s from his travels in the 80’s, which is still part of my kit today. Having no prior knowledge on how to use it, experimentation quickly turned into an obsession. I received back my first roll of Black and White film from the lab, and in there was one image that became imbedded in my mind and from that roll I fell love with it.
I’ve always loved shooting the ocean, experimenting with long exposures and some more abstract series. There’s a lot of variables that go into creating a special image. Waves, wind, lighting, angles, lens, talent and location. But when you get the shot and the elements align it’s a pretty great feeling. Composition at the end of the day will be something that separates a lot of images. Nowadays, personal work takes place where I can find time between jobs.
What is your favourite thing/subject to photograph?
I’ve always loved shooting a dark and wild ocean. For me there’s no better feeling than getting up in the early hours of the morning, driving to a location and not knowing what’s going to appear in front of your eyes. Always welcomed with new something different and unique.
It’s an element that’s out of your control and even harder to predict, a forever changing subject is great to work with though. As it challenges you to create an image given the circumstance at hand. Light can change so dramatically in a such a short period of time and documenting the subject throughout that change can have a huge impact on the work your producing and result in something quite special.
I started off shooting primarily landscapes and the ocean, but I really enjoy shooting people. It’s so unpredictable, and to be able to tell a story through a portrait I think is a great way to show a connection between the subject and the photographer, which hopefully people who view it, read into.
We know you use both analog and digital formats — how do you choose what medium to use?
I love slowing the process down, it all really depends on what I’m shooting but to nail a film shot is a pretty great feeling when it all comes together. Creating a series from 10 to 36 frames is a challenge, but something I love coming back to. It’s where it all started for me, and lately I’ve been taking that film mind set to my digital work.
Lastly, do you have projects in the works we should be aware of?
Yeah, a few bits and pieces coming up. I’ve got a pretty incredible job coming up in October from Darwin – Adelaide for 2 weeks, driving down the guts of Australia documenting some imagery for a commercial client. But I’m also planning on gathering some personal work to showcase too, going to be a wild trip! I’m also in the process of putting together a Coffee Table Book of some of my Ocean/Abstract work I’ve been working on for the past couple of years. I’ll be releasing some more information on this through my website and socials in the coming months, so keep those eyes peeled.