“Have a look at his page and cross step into his DMs if you’d like to set something up. Go make art.” read the caption of the post by york.surf that was dropped into my inbox by a friend. ‘He’ from ‘his page’ is a water photographer that has been living in the UK for the past two years or so, but before that was a Saffa ocean-hound like the rest of us.
Hmmm, I’ve been craving ‘making some art’ for a while now, why not try get involved in someone else's creative project for a shot of inspiration and motivation?
A DM later and I am added to the WhatsApp group of other willing participants, subjects of art if you will. I know most of them, for the Cape Town surf community, like many surf communities, is strong and tight at its core.
There is banter about where and when to surf. Everyone demonstrates their personal flavour and preference in this conversation. This is art: the individualism, the opinions, the partiality, the passion.
None of us get what we want; the weather is sublime, the surf – flat. Five days pass this way. On the sixth day, there is a minor kick in the swell, but the pink morning skies, aqua water and sparkling sunlight have been replaced by greys, caramels and offshores. And the place to surf was not on the top of anyone’s list.
Nevertheless, the waves are certainly offering a canvas that calls for cruising, cross stepping and setting some toes on the nose.
The artist gives us subjects a brief: “I have a wide angle lens, get as close to me as you can and I will still frame you”. The words and the instructions are simple. But it is a complicated concept to me; I have never been purposefully photographed in the water before. I’ve never had to consider any more than the usual variables when I surf.Is this art? When you are required to do something differently and, as a result, change your perspective, your mind, your physical vision, is that art? An art?
The surf and the session is a hoot – us subjects chat and share waves and share enthusiasm and smiles. The artist is in the water the entire session; no mean feat considering the Atlantic ocean temperatures!
As I drive back to work, I think about art and about what art is. I guess there are infinite answers to the question and everyone will answer the question through their experiences, through their lens. To me, the art of the day was not just in the moments captured by the artist, of the gliding subjects propelled by the salty waves and framed by the sulky skies.
It was in the objects we used to make these moments happen. The functional art. The years of testing, trying, building and reinvesting energy and time to make the quality pieces of functional art that allow us to play – our boards, fins, camera equipment, wetsuits, leashes, the wax - the big the small. If it's quality, I think it’s art.
All images by @tomsimagery