Water does work
In the Artists Series an interview with Surf Photographer and exploring artist Laura van de Plas. Local surfer from Zandvoort in The Netherlands.
What sparked your first ever interest in photography?
My mother loved to make photos when she was younger. Like most parents she also made a lot of pictures of my childhood. When I got a little older it was so nice to look back at these. She really captured life’s moments and through her photos she was able to show me what these moments meant to her. Some 15 years ago I started to develop the same interest for photography. Quite by accident I ran into an analogue water camera on a flea market and from then on I just started shooting.
Whose work has influenced you most?
I am, and always was, so immensely inspired by the sea itself. That sheer power and rawness of nature basically gives me all the inspiration I need. I am also quite self-taught. I did successfully follow an entry course to get submitted to the photography academy but I never entered the course itself. As I did more and more shoots I learned from session to session what circumstances I found most interesting for me to take pictures of. Like other photographers I use socials to promote my work so inevitably I started to look more at what other water photographers were doing. But still, I do not think they really made me look differently at my own work. I just like to follow my own direction, develop my own style and keep following that.
Ok, let me put it in another way. Is there a photographer who’ s work you really like?
Yes, there is. It is the work of Affonso Dalle, a Surf Photographer from Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. He makes amazing shots of beautiful waves and surfers. I especially like the ones with Rio in the background. His photos really want to make me go pack my bags and travel.
You mentioned the socials. This medium has become such an important showroom for artists of all kinds. If it isn’t that you were inspired by the way how you take your pictures, is there inspiration for you on how to showcase your work?
In the past I used to add a white frame to my photo’s on Instagram. I saw other photographers doing this on their socials and it looked very clean and organized; almost like the old fashioned family photo albums. At the moment I do not frame them anymore. But I may return to it.
Your work is mainly focused on the ocean. What does the ocean mean to you?
For me the ocean is an endless source of inspiration, always changing, never boring. This motion ignites my creativity. It’s an environment where I feel energized, where I feel at home and where I am surrounded by like-minded people. I also find people are very photogenic in the water. I guess.. water does work!
What specific challenges do you face while shooting in the water?
The ocean and its flow have a very positive influence on my wellbeing. My senses open and I am present and fully aware of the beauty around me. That said, at the same time these elements also create challenges for me as a photographer. The constant movement in the water makes it more difficult to keep the camera focussed. While the fluctuations between water and air temperatures are also quite challenging. In this case not only for the camera and housing but also my own body. But hey it is nice to be able to play and enjoy nature to get the job done.
Would you say you are a detail-oriented person?
I used to really focus a lot on composition and on overal sharpness. I really wanted to capture it all and show every aspect of surfing; the ocean, the surfer, the action, the background, other surfers, you name it. More recently though I find it more and more interesting to deliberately not show everything and to leave more to the imagination of the person looking at the picture. So I started working more with a lower aperture and aim for more detailed single objects with blurry surroundings.
Among your works, which one is your favorite?
For me a photo stands out if the shot brings me back to that specific place and makes me relive that special magical feeling it gave me. As a series I love the pictures that I took at the Canaries. The light, the blue green colors of the ocean with the contrasting volcanic rocky backgrounds are amazing. This awesome setting and the talented surfers doing what they love most is why these are amongst my favorite ones. But if I only have to choose one then I would say the black and white picture with great Italian artist and retro style longboarder Gabriele Bagnoni. A picture where surfer and nature merge and carry out this magical interplay.
What was the first piece of art you bought for yourself?
When I was around 28 years old I bought my first painting from a painter in Paris. It shows a British seascape with little boats. I am still in love with the painting. Painting is what I love to do myself. Especially the combination of photography and painting really works well for me. On those cold winter days I get very productive. Pictures that I made in the past can suddenly become an instant inspiration for a drawing. You can now find some of my drawings and paintings on my website waterworks.earth or on my @laura_exploradora instagram account.
What projects are you up to right now?
As an independent water photographer I work together with several local enterprises which I want to keep on doing. In addition I am super stoked that I got the possibility to partner up with you guys as a photographer on your Blue Juice Surf Adventures and coaching weeks.
Do you have any dream goals as a photographer in the near future?
I would like for my photography to create awareness for the importance of sustainability and our responsibility for clean oceans. In the future, I hope to expand my work to include projects that specifically support the health of the oceans especially on the very diverse and beautiful coast of Europe.
Gear of choice
NIKON D850 with a aquatech waterhousing
Your favorite surf style
As a longboarder defenitely Kassia Meador. Not only for her style on her surfboard but also her entrepreneurship. And yes, Kelly Slater, what an indescribable all time hero this guy is.
Your next surf trip
I will go to Portugal soon to enjoy the lovely weather, food, surf and not to forget its sweet and welcoming people.
I don't know if I have a particular favorite. At this moment I am listening to Elephant Revival. I discovered them through a mate of mine. I really like their song “Sing to the mountain”. Love folk!
Where can we check you out
Interview by Mike van den Berg