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We invite you to meet a very humble person who is going to immerse you in a world of colors and energies in the blink of an eye: Pierre Leboucher, Photographer-Videographer (view Pierre's profile).
Make yourself comfortable and let yourself get blown away by the sheer magic of his work, just like if you were on your surfboard feeling the energy of a growing swell while quietly anticipating the next coming set.
Here is the ocean as seen by Pierre’s extraordinary, unique and precise vision.
"For me, photography and videography are excellent channels to share those moments and tell a story through images (...)"
Pierre is originally from Varengeville-Sur-Mer, a small village in Normandy near Dieppe, France. Pierre has been working in Paris and within the audiovisual industry for several years now (conception and production of multiple projects: TV programs, large documentaries, advertising or video clips).
In addition to his career, Pierre devotes himself, whenever possible, to his passion for the photography-videography of Surf and marine environments.
Pierre has been surfing for over 10 years, mainly in the region of High-Normandy, alternating the sessions between surfing and shooting:
"I currently ride a Gong 6’0 Karamba"
An encounter with Pierre
Simply Surfers: How did you become passionate about photography / videography?
Pierre: It is most certainly impregnated in my genes. My father has always been an amateur and passionate about photography and video making. He gave me my very first camera as a gift and he has been preciously conserving all of the films we produced since we were younger. My mother loves cinema and art in general. It is thanks to her that I developed an artistic and cinematographic mind.
Simply Surfers: What is your relationship with the ocean? Where do you get this passion for Surf photography and videography from?
Pierre: I was born near the sea and I spent most of my free time there. It is difficult for me to get away from it. When I am away from the ocean for too long, and if I have nothing to do, I can easily go crazy and become very irritable (laughs). Today, I try to escape from the big city of Paris as soon as I can to get near the ocean, whether it is to go shooting, or surfing or simply to go on a walk. I guess that most people who have lived by the ocean can understand what I mean.
Simply Surfers: What does Surf photography convey to you in comparison with other types of photography?
Pierre: Taking photos/videos of surfing and other water sports, in general, is a way to tie my work with my passion. It is for that reason that I persevere in this field as I think that when we love doing something, doing it does not feel like actual work. And we strive to do it well. And so instead of investing myself in some projects in which I don’t believe in and which do not match my values, I prefer to focus on projects that suit my mindset better.
In the photographer’s skin
Simply Surfers: Every time you go on a shooting session, do you usually know precisely in advance what kind of images you intend to capture?
Pierre: I rarely know exactly in advance what kind of images I will be shooting. According to me, the beauty of the ocean derives from the distinctive weather conditions, which are never the same twice. The wind, the sun, the clouds, the rain, the color of the water, the waves, the tide...everything changes. The marine scenery is never the same. The virtue of this is that I could shoot from the exact same spot every day and I would still be making a new and unique photo. Similarly, whenever I take photos of surfers, they also are unpredictable and I rarely give them any directives. Nevertheless, I invariably have some ideas in my mind about the photos I want to take; and I make the best of these ideas whenever the swell/weather conditions allow me to.
Simply Surfers : You take a lot of photos ‘in the water’, which involves a lot of physical and technical constraints for you. When you are “on land”, you can comfortably set up your equipment and, take the time to adjust the camera lenses. You have the time to be calmly focused on creating your work. On the contrary, when you are in the water, you are constantly thrown around by the strength of the waves and the toughness of the current. You must constantly manage your movements, your equipment, and your safety, while not putting the safety of the other surfers at risk. It makes you evolve in a tremendously tough environment that you get to manage completely nevertheless.
Does the ocean confer you a particular energy that stimulates your work as a photographer?
Do you need to physically and mentally interact with the forces of Nature to better capture it in your images?
Pierre: I would rather say that it is an environment to which I am constantly adapting to. It is actually quite a physical exercise, as the ocean is not the human’s primary environment. But that is precisely the point of my photos: sharing with the audience an unfamiliar and immersive point of view. Besides, a surfer friend was recently telling me the following, from a “metaphysical” way of thinking: “the swell eventually transmits its energy to the surfers after it has been traveling for thousands of kilometers to the shore from the deep ocean.” … And to the photographer certainly as well.
"Every aspects of my work is interesting, though my favorite part is to be in the thick of it, in the water or on land; living the moment fully, where the action is."
Simply Surfers: What does mainly inspire you: the ocean or the surfers?
Pierre: Beyond the beauty of the ocean, I am fascinated by the performance of the athletes. Especially when with the wind, the coldness, the swell, the reef, all of this environment can seriously turn into hostile. Even though, it remains a genuine playground for some. That is the case with surfing and also with kitesurfing or windsurfing. I profoundly love highlighting the connection between the human and Nature.
Simply Surfers: Every image that you capture with your cameras have long lives that are made of various stages and which involve many different persons. First, the inspiration phase, during which you are alone, reflecting. Follows the conception stage, where you are in tune with your equipment, facing the subjects who will be captured through the lens’s eye: the Nature and the surfers. Assuredly, that is the most "intimate" moment where you completely disappear behind your camera’s lens to surrender to the ephemeral scene that comes to life in front of you. Finally, you edit the photos and you share them with millions of spectators especially through social media.
Putting all this in perspective, we feel like asking you which is the ultimate reason that stimulates your work.
What is your deep motivation? Is it a tribute to nature and surfing? Are you driven by the desire of sharing the final result of these images with spectators? Or is there a more personal reason?
Pierre: A surfing session is always going to be unique. Sessions are never the same twice, and a good session requires very specific weather conditions; thus a good session is quite a rare event. So, as soon as the surf is working well, the surfers and I share the same excitement: the water calling, the need to take part to a very special moment, which could end up being either the worst or the best session of the year.
My deep motivation is to immortalize this moment and to share it with the surfers who were there as much as with the spectators who were not.
Simply Surfers: Which one of these “living phases” do you like the most: the inspiration - the conception – the sharing?
Pierre: Every aspect of my work is interesting, though my favorite part is to be in the thick of it, in the water or on land; living the moment fully, where the action is. Seeking to share the sensations and the adrenaline that the surfers feel. I cannot feel these sensations during the post-production work seating in front of my computer, or when I share on social media.
“The swell eventually transmits its energy to the surfers after it has been travelling for thousands of kilometers to the shore from the deep ocean.” … And to the photographer certainly as well.
Surfing in the Normandy region
Simply Surfers: The Normandy region is your « local spot ». It is a stunning region that lends itself perfectly to the photography. You also get the opportunity of traveling a lot to make photo documentaries in exotic locations. What do you appreciate the most in the Surf photography in Normandy?
Pierre: At first glance, Normandy is not the first region that one associates with surfing. The water temperature swings between 7°C in the winter and 18°C in the summer. Decent surf conditions are pretty rare and the waves get rarely bigger than 2 meters high. But I am consistently impressed to observe the strong passion that fires up the Norman surfers. You can be sure that there will always be one person in the water, no matter how good or how bad the conditions are. Too small, too cold, too windy, there is still always a story to tell and images to be encapsulated. This is what I love to show.
Simply Surfers: What distinguishes a Surf photo taken in Normandy from a surf photo taken from other spots?
Pierre: The spots in High Normandy are fairly unique with chalk cliffs all along the coastline. This makes images with green and white hues, the colors of the water from the Channel always changing. This setting is rarely seen in surf photography.
Simply Surfers: Have you established special connections with the Norman’s Surf community? How do you manage to photograph / film the surfers? Is it you who ask them to or are they the ones asking you to?
Pierre: My work in photography and videography allows me to be known within the surf community in Normandy. Some surfers recognize me in the carpark or in the water after having seen my work on social media. In the water, I am fairly discreet, I swim and I position myself where I want to photograph what inspires me. Until now, I have never been confronted by any surfers who were reluctant to be in front of the lens. If this were to happen, I would obviously be opened to talk about it as it must remain a pleasant experience for everyone out there before all. Generally, the surfers who are interested ask me for the snapshots during or after the session. I also publish my photos on the local Facebook groups, where any surfers who are interested can contact me directly.
"Some surfers recognize me in the carpark or in the water after having seen my work on the social media. In the water, I am fairly discreet, I swim and I position myself where I want to photograph what inspires me."
Simply Surfers : You have done quite a lot of photoshoots during this past winter in Normandy, while it was snowing and temperatures were close to zero if not negative. How do you handle the cold?
Pierre: To handle the cold, you must have good equipment and keep moving as much as possible. Good gloves, good booties, and a hood allow you to prevent from losing too much heat from the extremities of the body. I also wear a Patagonia R5 wetsuit for the most extreme temperatures, difficult to be any warmer…
Simply Surfers: How is the vibe in the water, when you are located right at the impact zone? Isn’t the atmosphere too tense at times, if you find yourself in the way of the surfers and you could be interfering with their wave? Or are you generally well tolerated and discreet in the water?
Pierre: It is the same as in surfing, it all depends on the spot you are at and the general vibe. At a Norman beach break, tensions are not of the same nature as at a reef break in Indonesia. Until now, I have always been well accepted in the water and I always try to place myself out of the way of the surfers so as not to disturb them.
Simply Surfers: Have you ever experienced any scary moments in the water? For example, have you ever gotten caught in a big set and ended up spending a long time underwater?
Pierre : As a surfer, I have already experienced a few frights with some gnarly sets, but never as a photographer until now (I am touching wood!).
Simply Surfers: By the way, do you have a board or a floater to help you move around in the water and stay above the surface? Or are you constantly making efforts to swim?
Pierre: Until now, I do not use any floaters, surfboards or bodyboards to stay above the surface. It is a hindrance to my movements and it can be dangerous to nearby surfers. I simply use a pair of fins to move around faster. Depending on the conditions, I do adapt my equipment and I do not hesitate to upgrade it if necessary in order to be in the most comfortable conditions possible as well as to avoid being disrupted by the unexpected.
End of part one
Discover the second part of Pierre’s interview as soon as it is published by registering here.
Simply Surfers with Pierre Leboucher
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Translated to English from French by Julie Tortajada