BLEUS, BLANCS, ROUGES
Just before the release of his book “IMPRESSIONS”, we had the chance to catch talented photographer Thomas Lodin between 2 trips to discuss about his work, inspiration and of course projects. Here is the recap of our discussion.
SALT WATER: Hello Thomas. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
Can you tell us how you discovered surfing photography and how you decided to make it a living ?
THOMAS LODIN: Oh it’s been a while…! The first thing is that I’ve never really decided to make it a living. I’ve started taking photos when I was a young teenager but not of surfing, I was riding BMX at the time. Even if I’ve spent all my summers at the beach and playing in the ocean, I only started surfing 10 years ago when my older brother offered me a surfboard he had restored. Then he drove me to go surfing with him at our local beach - 1h driving from our house in Nantes. I was already with a camera at the time so I just had it with me and started taking pictures of our boards and some line ups, nothing really fantastic but it was just to become memories.
Then I grew up, wanted to do better pictures, got a driving license and some friends to go surfing with and bought a disposable waterproof camera to shoot for fun. In the meantime I had some contracts and assignments to shoot for a french BMX magazine called SOUL and also started to work with Red Bull on a bunch of stuff !
I was leaving High School for days to shoot photos, it was really punching me in this way. So I went to a Graphic Arts school that had a photography course to learn about graphic design of course and progress in photography for 3 years. My love for surfing and photography didn’t stop. I had discovered the work of Damien Poullenot that I really like and got an internship with him for 6 months, working as a photo assistant, doing also some graphic design for him. He had (and still) worked for a lot of people in the surfing world so it was a big thing ! I bought my first waterhousing for my Canon DSLR thanks to him.
At the end of these 6 months he wanted me to stay and work for him but I had one year left to finish my studies so I went back to Nantes… Yes I did.. I obviously didn’t stop taking pictures and surfing pictures during this year. My brother (again !) was working for Hoalen and hired me to shoot photos of Mathieu Maréchal from the water. I then went on my first big trip abroad to Australia with him that I had just met ; I left again school for 5 weeks… After it was this time again and I directly moved to Biarritz no matter what. It was a bit more that 4 years ago now. Started to work for Damien again and I’m still here today working for myself !
SW: You were born and raised in Brittany. How moving to Biarritz, clearly the epicenter of the French surfing scene, impacted your carrer ?
TL: First because of my love for surfing. I had came here a couple times before and fall in love with the region. For me it’s the perfect mix and I wanted to live near the ocean and especially where there are waves, often. Nantes is a nice city to live but waves are difficult to find so it can be frustrating. Then for photography, without talking about make it a living, its landscapes, waves and lights are inspiring to me so it was another reason ! And after these 6 months internship I knew that I had potentially some opportunities down here, first with Damien again and then maybe by myself hopefully. I had to be here if I really wanted to push further in that way ! Waves are here and surfers also so it can be helpful !
SW: Where does your creativity comes from ? What are your inspirations ?
TL: I think creativity comes with curiosity. And I think I may owe this from my parents probably.
It’s different for everybody I guess. I’m not taking things for granted, I want to progress everyday by trying new things, experimenting to not be bored and tired of what I’m doing. As each wave is different, you have to adapt yourself to the wave. I’m trying to do the same with my photography. Not doing something twice. I do sometimes but I try not to !
It’s also a medium you learn and progress everyday and traveling, discovering new places and people feeds the creativity and the inspiration. Its comes in many forms. Of course I’m looking a bit more over surfing and the surfing photography world, I’ve always loved images of any kind - whether it’s art in general, films, music etc - but I’m also looking back to what was happening at the beginning of the surfing photography and its history. I love it. And of course just by being in the water and surfing is very important to me. It allows me to clean my mind and start with fresh ideas !
SW: After years shooting, you are publishing your first photo book named "Impressions". Can you tell us more about this new project ?
TL: I’m stoked and nervous about it ! The project of making a book came more than a year ago. Oxbow’s marketing director Jean-Patrick proposed me this idea. It’s a big thing and a huge opportunity I couldn’t decline but I wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t sure and totally happy with the content I could offer so we waited and here we are ! I’ve really started to work on it 6 months ago. I hadn’t done any proper photo selecs before (and kind of forgot the idea of it in between) so I had to browse all my hard drives for the last 3 years to start. Date on which I started to collaborate with the brand. They increased my travels, permitted me to shoot a lot of photos and giving me also free time for some personal shoots. So I finished with almost 4 000 photos !
After a couple of cold sweats and head grips to find something interesting and common in all these images with his big help and some of the Oxbow’s marketing department we have selected 150 photos which 80% are unseen before ! They are divided in 3 chapters, 3 large chromatic spaces appeared on their own and evoke each of my own particular emotions. The « blues » bring with them all the shades and remarkable moods of the ocean, the fundamental element for surfing. The « whites » that follow, in contrast to black, bring timelessness to sublimate the grace of the ballet orchestrated by the surfer. Finally, light as a fundamental element of photography demonstrates all its intensities of « reds » to finish with some subtleties.
In this book I wanted to show surfing as I see it and how I appreciate it. To highlight this universe’s grace and aesthetics, its objects - boards and especially traditional longboarding and single fins - the glide of these men and these women which are revealed on these objects, all this culture and its playground, the ocean. "Impressions" is literally a vision, my impressions on surfing and the ocean. The way I see it and live it. As simple as it can be. A testimony as a hard cover photography essay of 292 pages and printed in limited edition of 300 !
SW: Your book is organized in three sections : Bleu(s), Blanc(s), Rouge(s). Is it a true declaration of love to France ?
TL: I was waiting for this question ! I didn’t wanted to be boring so yes and no. I’m french so of course it can be related to my country and where I come from but there’s no more signification behind it. These chromatic spaces appeared really on their own in my photographs so it wasn’t really planed but it fits perfectly and I love it ! Like I explained it before each tone refers to one element of surfing and photography : Blues for the ocean, Whites for timelessness and Reds for the light and especially the sunset light !
If I really wanted to be chauvinistic I should have selected photos taken in France of french surfers only but there’s a bit more than that in the book. Subtlety is the french touch ?!
SW: The preface is signed by Devon Howard. Do you have a special relationship with California ?
TL: Yes ! I’m extremely lucky and I can’t thank enough Devon for being a part for my first book !
I don’t know if it’s a special relationship with California but I grew up like many others watching all these movies and this culture especially through BMX who’s coming from the US. I was buying magazines and those guys were touring and having fun in crazy places and landscapes. When you are 12 years old that’s something that makes you dream for ever. Then I’ve discovered some surfing videos and especially One California Day, that just marked me for life. I think it was my first introduction to surfing history and longboarding in general. Devon was featured in the film like Joel Tudor, Jimmy Gamboa or Tyler Hatzikian so that’s why it’s really special for me that he agreed to write the preface of the book !
I first met him randomly in Guéthary a year ago now. I had came to California a few months before for the first time to shoot with Oxbow and I was just blown away by everything ! So I could only fell in love with everything : waves obviously, places, cultures, cars and the list goes on. To the point that I went back 3 times afterwards and I'm already planning my next visit !
SW: Can you tell us more about the surfers who are featured in the book?
TL: A lot of friends ! Old and new, french, americans, australians etc… Over the last 3 years I’ve shot a lot with Clovis Donizetti, Mathieu Maréchal or Joe Davies so they will be in it for sure but you will find also other friends like Sean Tully, Devon Howard, Tristan Mausse, Matt Chojnacki, Levi Prairie, Tom Payne, Jules Lepêcheux, Ryan Burch, Karina Rozunko, Alex Knost, JJ Wessels, Belinda Baggs, Andy Nieblas, Brian Bent, Victoria Vergara and many others !
But there are not only surfers in this book, there are also photos of the ocean, seascapes, experimentations etc etc.
SW: In a digital world, with the rise of social networks, do you think print still got a place ?
TL: Yes ! Print and photography have always been linked together since the beginning. When you think about it, back in the days you were shooting on film and the result was a negative film. You couldn’t do anything with that. You had to print it on paper to see the actual photograph. Nowadays it’s the same, except that we have a first glimpse of what we have taken on a screen but the actual result and look of a photograph is not on that backlit screen, you have to print it on paper to see how it really looks like. We have only changed the aspect of a negative film. Once on paper you can’t cheat about your work and it's much more rewarding to see one of your photo printed than in a folder lost in a hard drive.
I know that it’s harder and harder now to publish and sell with all the digital world. I know that I’m pretty lucky ! But you can’t remove the touch of the paper, the smell and holding a physical object by just a electronic device and the touch of the screen. For me print is here to be more than just paper, more than just a magazine or a book. It can be a beautiful object by its form but also by its design and lay out that you want to keep forever.
SW: You will be busy promoting your books in the coming weeks, but any exciting projects for 2019 ?
TL: The book is my main project for the coming weeks that’s for sure, we should also do some events in France around the book in February and in the meantime I have a couple travels in mind to escape winter ! Around that nothing really planned, I let myself go with the flow and see where it goes !
SW: Last word?
TL: Thank you for these questions, for the feature and for the interest to my work !
Just to let everybody know that the book will be out on the 15th of December ! Available worldwide on oxbowshop.com and in all Oxbow’s boutiques in France !
I can also tell that the launching event of the book will be on the 20th in Biarritz ! There will be some surprises, I will share more infos soon…