Surf photography may seem like all the rage at the moment – Instagram has been the biggest enabler for happy snappers who live by the sea, and it’s no secret why – the aesthetics of the ocean are no mystery. While some take joy in the placidity of the Pacific, sharing their shots through social media, artists like Luke Shadbolt continue to do what great artists do best: capture the angles others don’t see.
Having just won the Nikon / Surfing Australia Surf Photo Of The Year Award, Luke’s work is attracting fans at an exponential rate, and not just in Australia.
“I had my first show here in Sydney [Maelstrom] last May at the Michael Reid Gallery. From there exhibited a follow up series Acquiesce The Front at Photo London earlier this year, which is now showing [at the Michael Reid Gallery] in Berlin. That series will also be coming back to Sydney in November…” Luke tells us. “I’m also in a group show Wallpower, which is a collection of 20 Australian contemporary photographers, which opens tomorrow in Cologne. It will then be exhibited in Berlin, London and Paris over the course of a year. It’s pretty incredible to be included in that group of photographers, with names like Bill Henson and Tamara Dean on the same roster.”
The enigmatic and highly professional Shadbolt’s photography reflects a concise precision in its execution, while remaining chaotic and wild in its subject matter, and this latest exhibition is a deliberate departure from simply capturing rough waves on film. When I probe him on this, he’s quick to clarify: “I’d spent so many years chasing perfect waves that shooting these works was a decided turn against that. It was an exploration of the chaos theory. I would say there is an element of violence, but that only makes up part of the bigger picture. I like the idea of attempting to show all sides of a story, but I’m only figuring the story out through the process so it’s constantly evolving. There’s definitely a sense of enormity to it, but perhaps that’s just born from my own experiences with the ocean. It’s all subjective really.
“In actually lining up a shot, it’s a mix of preparation, interpretation and anticipation. The motivation for my first series Maelstrom was to try and capture the ocean in its most furious form, in an attempt to show off that duality of beauty and chaos in a single act. Throughout the process of working on that series, I realised that the story was about a lot more than the final act. As completely random as the waves are, there was a distinct series of events that lead to create that form, which opened up the idea for showing more than just the final crashing wave. I started noticing the moments in between and the interest in the before and after. That was the focus of this new series Acquiesce The Front.”
Where some capture for location, this series detracts from geographical elements, and instead could arguably be anywhere with a tempestuous tidal pool. “There are very certain locations that allow for these type of waves, but I like that they are a representation of an aspect of the ocean as a whole, rather than anywhere specific. I do like the idea of exploring location more in future, but what they might involve I’m not yet sure.”