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Plunge into a surf photographer's mind

Part 2/2

Part 1

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In part 1, Pierre Leboucher, surf photographer-videographer, immersed us in his vision of the ocean, which we rediscovered through his fine and subtle gaze.

Here is the second part of this interview, which shows Pierre's commitment to the protection of the coastline and the ocean, using his passion and his talent to serve this purpose. As Pierre disappears behind his lens, we let you enjoy his vision of the magic relationship between surfing and the ocean.

My work is a way to engage in the protection of the environment and free access to the coastline.

About Pierre | Reminder

Pierre is originally from Varengeville-Sur-Mer, a small village in Normandy near Dieppe, France. Pierre has been working in Paris for several years conceiving and producing a broad range of projects such as TV programs, documentaries, advertising, and video clips.

In addition to his career, Pierre devotes his personal time to his passion for the surf photography-videography and marine life.

Pierre is a long-time surfer who alternates photo sessions and surfing sessions, mainly in the region of High-Normandy, France.

Mastering of the technique or ability to let free course to emotions?

Simply Surfers: What do you think makes a great photo?

Pierre: There are plenty of reasons why a photo is beautiful. For instance, the composure of the photo, or the story it tells, or simply the amount of work it required. I like quoting Russel Ord (photographer), who once said:

"Eight years ago, I was reading a photo magazine called "The Twentieth Most Popular Wildlife Images of the Year”, in which several renowned photographers were interviewed about their work and methods of capturing award-winning photos. Some were telling stories about when they were hiding in the trees for days, avoiding grizzly bears, fighting hypothermia, heat exhaustion, material losses, years of planning, etc... For the judges, the best photo was one of a Bengal tiger who was coming out of the water while shaking his head, dispersing the waters in the air, near a pond. The photographer had taken it with a slow shutter creating a perfect ring around the tiger while maintaining the sharp aspect of the feline on the image. The photo was staggering. As I understood the actual story behind the photo, I was affected by the reaction of the other photographers in that competition and I thought: how-come the judges award the 1st prize to a photo that was effortlessly taken in a zoo? How could this compete at the same level as the photos of the other photographers who had to endure so many troubles to achieve their work?

This article changed my perception of photography, especially with regards to the efforts that photographers have to produce to achieve their work.

Since then, I look beyond the image and I consider that the way the photo was taken is as important as the timing of the photo-shoot."

Credit photo: Daniel Russo.

In a Facebook feed, Russel Ord was explaining that one of “the most beautiful photo ever taken at Pipeline” had been taken totally by chance. It happened at the end of a session, while the photographer Daniel Russo was heading back to the beach from the passenger seat of a jetski; he turned his head one last time to take a quick look and he took that amazing shot. This photo above was shot instantly without any preparation beforehand. I totally understand Russel’s point of view, and that’s why I believe many criteria can determine whether a photo is beautiful or not.

Simply Surfers: The world of surf photography has grown tremendously in recent years, driven by lower cost of technologies and greater exposure via social media.

Is it easier or harder to make it in the surf photo/video industry?

Pierre: We could think that the industry has become ultra-competitive, especially because the equipment has become more and more accessible technically and financially.

Anyway, I think the important is to know what you want to achieve with your camera and how you want to fit in the industry.

I met once a surf photographer in Siargao in the Philippines; he was shooting with a semi-automatic camera, he did not bother editing his photos, and he would delete all of them right after selling them to his surfers' clients. In fact, he did not possess any of the technical skills nor the methodology that professional photographers acquire. However, he got to live from his work from day-to-day.

Simply Surfers: Which surf photographers do you follow and are a source of inspiration?

Pierre: There are many of them, and they all inspire me for different reasons. Ben Thouard, for the quality of his work. Ronan Gladu, for the collective Lost In The Swell, and their stories of new adventures. Thomas Lodin for the originality of his images. Chris Burkard is also one of my favorites.

Simply Surfers: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into the surf photo/video career path?

Pierre: Grab any camera next to you and start shooting anything that inspires you!

From Normandy to Indonesia

Simply Surfers: You made a series of videos called Hidden Playgrounds Normandy. Can you tell us about this project?

Pierre: Hidden Playgrounds is a web-series that aims to promote surfing in Normandy. When I launched this project in 2016, it was a great opportunity to showcase the various spots of Normandy to show that "yes", we can also surf in Normandy. The idea was to create rather contemplative videos, to show the diversity of our surf spots, the "playgrounds", to encourage the local surfers to pursue the search of the ultimate wave; although without ever revealing the locations of the spots I filmed. Indeed, I ran into pretty stiff localism on some waves, and I had to gain the surfers' trust to get to follow them on their secret spots.

I still have a lot to show through these web-series and I look forward to continuing as soon as I find the time to work on it.

View more: Episode 1

"The idea is to create rather contemplative videos, to show the diversity of our surf spots, the "playgrounds", to encourage our local surfers to pursue the search, although without ever revealing their location."

Simply Surfers: What would be your ideal photo/video surf project?

Pierre: Clearly, to go on a trip to search for a wave that has never been surfed before. That would be the ultimate project to realize with a group of surfers: exploring the coast, building a story around the trip, to share the entire experience.

Simply Surfers: What are the surf spots around the world that you're dreaming of filming/photographing?

Pierre: Those that have not yet been discovered. I am not particularly attracted by world-class spots like Pipeline, Teahupoo, which are highly publicized, or the monster waves like Jaws or Nazaré, where the spots in the water come at a high price. I am rather inspired by the quest and adventure of discovering a new wave. Like Mike Fanning’s right "The Snake" or Natxo Gonzalez’s dream right. These are projects where there's a whole new dimension to the story to tell.

Simply Surfers: You had the great opportunity to join a group of surfers during a surf trip in Sumatra to film them. How was the experience?

Pierre: It was an incredible experience. My first complete project on a surf trip, starting with preparing for the trip, until delivering a 25-minute film, and over 700 photos to the surfers who hired me. It was also my first surf trip to an exotic destination. Besides the pleasure of swimming every day in an 86°F blue water, I got the privilege of shooting between 3 to 4 sessions a day, discover the Indonesian reef, experiencing with the surfers. Until now, every time I watch the wonderful memories of this two-week trip, it revives in me so many emotions. I'll always be grateful to this group of surfers for trusting me with this unique project.

Simply Surfers: Is it possible for surfers to take you on a surf trip with them?

Pierre: Of course, this is part of the services I offer: accompanying surfers in France and around the world, in cold or warm countries, to capture with my cameras unique sessions and come back with amazing stories to show.

Simply Surfers: And usually, how can anyone get photographed by you on any given day?

Pierre: It is pretty simple; if you are in my area, I am either located right there at the beach, shooting during your session and you can simply contact me to get the photos. Or, I invite you to contact me ahead of a session/surf trip so we schedule a specific shooting.

(Contact info at the bottom of the article).

Simply Surfers sincerely thanks Pierre for allowing us to bring the objective onto him for the time of this interview.

It gives all of us the chance to plunge into Pierre's mind and grasp his perception of surfing and the ocean.

Simply Surfers with Pierre Leboucher

Connect with Pierre:

Simply Surfers | Instagram | 500px | Vimeo | YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | email

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Part 1

Translated to English from French by Julie Tortajada

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