Gary Knights - the interview

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20 Oct
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Gary Knights recently partnered up with Animal to release a capsule collection featuring some of his beautiful photography. We thought we’d catch up with the Bournemouth man to get the lowdown on his passion for photography and a behind the scenes take on some of his recent work.

Animal: What got you into surf photography in the first place?

Gary Knights: I was on a surf trip in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, with a bunch of friends when we bumped into Alex Williams (at the time Carve surfing Magazine’s official photographer). He was on a photo shoot with Sam Lamiroy and Martin Connelly. I remember having a Canon waterproof film camera that I borrowed off a friend just to take some holiday photos, and I ended up swimming out and shooting in the water alongside Alex.

In between sets we started talking about photography, waves and magazines etc… I really enjoyed taking photos in the water that day and I felt a part of the surf session. As a newcomer in surf photography, I managed to get some great shots by keeping close to him in the lineup.

Approximately a month later I saw his pictures in the Magazine; it was Surfers Path with Sam on its cover positioned in a beautiful barrel. The pictures inside the magazine inspired me to take surf photography seriously and half a year later I was lucky enough to get my first shots published in Carve Magazine. The rest is history, as they say...

A: How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?

GK: My photographic vision is to capture very precise moments in time. There's something special about surfing. Unlike most other sports where you can recreate the conditions fairly easily (a skate ramp will never change shape), surfing provides an ever changing environment. Because the waves are never the same, there's always something new to look at and be mesmerised by. It's about that split second that is never going to be re-created the same way.

I often put myself in the skin of the surfer, who's often the key subject in my work, to recreate my vision from a more artistic perspective. It's about freezing those moments that are often missed by the human eye.

 I don’t really try to have just one sort of look to my photos; I always adapt and change my style to the variables involved within my photography, it keeps things fresh and interesting, and also in line with the nature of surfing.

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A: Where do you draw your inspiration? Any particular photographers in the surfing industry or elsewhere? 

GK: There are so many amazing photographers in the world right now and with the influx of social media in the last few years, especially Instagram, it's hard not to get inspired within seconds of logging in. I still think Ted Grambeau is one of the most influential surf photographers around. He’s been shooting for years and has definitely moved with the times. Morgan Maassen is also so talented and always inspirational. 

A: What’s one of your favorite spots to shoot?

GK: I recently went back to Indonesia. One place I really enjoyed shooting, although not easy due to tides and positioning, was Lakey Peak. The whole island of Sumbawa is amazing. The moment you get off the plane and take on the long-winded journey to the surf spots, it becomes clear that the island has lots to offer for photographers. From the friendly people to the natural environment that you see along the way, there is always plenty of special moments to capture. The potential for surf and wave photography once you get to Lakeys is never ending: great beaches with warm, crystal clear water backed with dense forests and hills soon get you reaching for the camera.

In England I still love heading to Cornwall as there is such a wide variety of beaches and craggy rock lined bays peppered all over the county. You can have 4 seasons in one day and the waves can be anything from wild winter storms to fun 1 ft peelers, it really is the perfect place to get creative with your surf photography.

A: How does living in on the South Coast affect your approach to surf photography?

GK: Living on the South Coast can be frustrating at times as a surf photographer. The light is always in front of you, the punishing westerly winds blow sand straight up the beach and invade any weak spots on your camera gear. Then when we do get good waves it often seems to be overcast or even raining. Sometimes this is good as it can help you approach it differently, think outside the box and look for a different angle. I've been getting into the water a bit more recently, and I'm looking forward to this winter with ideas I have been thinking about for years.

A: Perhaps you could give us an insight on the story behind a couple of your photographs?

Andy Irons. Hossegor, 2005.

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The late Andy Irons was one of the best surfers to ever grace planet earth. It was always not only exciting but a privilege to watch and shoot him surf, no matter the conditions.

For a number of years, him and Kelly Slater had one of the biggest rivalries in the history of surfing.

It really divided the surf world with Kelly fans on one side and Andy fans on the other.

This heat was in France in 2005. The waves were amazing and Andy was tearing everything apart. He went on to win this event, but ended up losing the world title to Kelly on the last event of the tour that year.

When he passed away in 2010 it was amazing to see how much love the global surfing fraternity showed, and it continues from year to year since his passing. I am so glad I got to meet and photograph one of the all-time surfing greats.

 

Pier. Bournemouth Pier, 2014.

This shot was taken in the late Autumn light from under Bournemouth Pier.

The waves were only small that day so I thought I'd dive under the pier while the surfers were waiting for waves.

The pier is surfed on both sides and quite often you can see amazing light bouncing off the barnacled and mussel-covered legs.

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Indo grom. Lakey Peak, 2015.

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The standard of surfing in Lakey Peak is so high. The local groms head out into the surf daily with any board they can find.

Many of those boards have been left by travelers or snapped then been repaired, but it doesn’t seem to hinder the talent in any shape or form.

It's amazing to think that these kids have learnt to surf there, on dry reef and old dinged up shortboards.

I always wonder how much better these kids would be if they had custom boards made specifically for them. When you think of the potential impact of local surf clubs and regular contests, it'll be interesting over the next few years to see how surfing will evolve on this small but beautiful island.

 

Seaweed. Nusa Lembongan, 2015.

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This picture was taken at a seaweed farm on the island of Nusa Lembongan. We were exploring the island on my moped with my girlfriend when we stopped off just past a small village near a tiny little beach. We walked down the ancient old steps and were greeted by one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. It was like walking into another world. It was so peaceful.

There were people calmly harvesting the seaweed that had been exposed by the low tide. There were men and women of all ages walking with huge baskets filled with nutrient rich green weed. The scene stretched for about a mile to the ocean and was so atmospheric with the late afternoon light and sea haze. It really did feel like we had found a magical new world, a moment neither of us will ever forget.

A: What projects do you currently have in the pipeline photography wise?

GK: I have quite a few projects in the pipeline but most of them are staying close to my chest as they're innovative and specific to the weather conditions. I will be incorporating flash into the set at some stage and I have been waiting for a perfect day for it. I will also be having an exhibition in the New Year and working on a couple of projects with some local surf brands, I’m super looking forward to that.

Check out the Animal x Gary Knights collaboration right here:

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