Shopping Basket

A RENEWED FOCUS | PHOTOGRAPHER JACK ABBOTT

We've known Jack for a little while now, once resident photographer at our Bristol store. An avid surfer himself and splitting time between city and surf, it made perfect sense in having Jack lend his lens to the various happenings in store; a working relationship that saw Jack capture the goings on at  70 Park Street and the array of people that graced our events calendar.

As a photographer of surf in what could be considered a less frequented coastline, Jacks humble approach to portraying his native Wales has seen his work published in the staple British magazines and beyond. Now full time city dweller, he continues to render his craft a little further from his first love, unexpectedly renewing an understanding, reconnection and appetite for his home shores.

We caught up with an old friend to find out what balance now looked like and where his lens was now focussed. 


How has the transition into spring been for you? Swells to accompany?

I’ve been in Bristol for most of it but had a couple of dips here and there. I’ve got a little fish being made at the minute so I’m pretty excited to get in. I’ve had a shoot on here (Bristol) so I’ve missed this mega ground swell and heatwave. I keep getting updates from back home and seeing everyone’s shots from about the place, looks like it’s been firing everywhere. Lots of ‘should have been here yesterday’ ‘best ever’ kind of reports. Went to check out the Severn Bore the other day though, it’s pretty mad.


A photographer by trade, what has surfing and surf photography given you over the years? 

Surfing is a big reason for getting in to photography for me, I’d always be paddling over the shoulder of waves just like ‘Arhh, if I’d had a camera on me…’
 
Before I’d picked up a camera, I was super lucky to surf with the Howies team and got to go on some really fun trips. This was actually where I first met photographer, James Bowden. I was always aware of the behind the scenes photography that accompanied and found this really interesting. After that I borrowed an old Minolta 35dl water proof film camera from my Mum to give it a whirl and loved it straight away. The camera sadly died 17 shots in and not much came out but I was hooked from there. This was about 5 years ago.
 
I’d always liked the idea of photography but didn’t really know how to get in to it. Surfing was what I knew and I’d stared endlessly at magazines over the years. When I started shooting surf other photographers were really encouraging with advice, this gradually fed into photographing people and places and then doing it professionally for work.
 
It's something that i have been able to entertain while not surfing also. Whether it’s crowded or if I just fancied something different, shooting in the water gives me a similar buzz. You still get to jump in the sea and get that feeling. The two kind of lean on each other.



Where and what is your most ideal scenario to shoot?

Any time with nice light, waves and shooting in the water with people having a laugh is pretty up there for the ideal scenario. I like trying to get a bit of the landscape in my photographs and shooting a little pulled back, having a wander to find an interesting angle. When one of those photographs makes it to print, that’s the best.
 
There are a few shots I’ve got in mind for places at home. Being super fickle and having tiny windows of opportunity keep these pretty hard to attain, but I like having something to aim for with surf photography, something different.
 
In addition to surf, I love photographing people and am enjoying doing more of that. Portraits, lifestyle and doing the things I’m less used to. I’ve just finished a sustainable fashion shoot in Bristol which was really fun.



You’ve been in Bristol for the last couple of years. How do you balance and remain connected to what’s happening back home and in the water? 
 
Yeah nearly 2 years already, flying by. It’s such a good place to base myself for work and there’s loads going on. It’s a nice size and felt like one of the more achievable cities to move to. An easy trip back to Wales or heading further south.
I was pretty mind blown jumping on a 20-minute bus to the airport for the first time. Little things like that help.
 
Being freelance and having the flexibility to drop and go is amazing, but equal measure panic. I'm slowly getting better at taking time to go jump in the sea or go on a little mission. If I’m quiet, it sometimes feels like I should stay here and chase work, but going for a dip makes you feel so much better and tends to assist in my productivity anyway. There’s a few freelance folk that surf or shoot here too, getting to connect with these and mission somewhere new has been really cool.
 
It’s hard to not go when a good-looking swell pops up on the charts and all the surf chatter starts flying about. But there are definitely times, for instance, the recent mega run of ground swell when it’s simply not doable so you have to try and ignore the Pembs group chat, often impossible.



Has the way you shoot evolved over time? Do you have a different take and perspective having spent time away?
 
Being in the city has certainly broadened the work I do and the way I shoot. Surf, lifestyle and outdoors is what I love most and am more comfortable with, plus when you’re doing that it’s usually with similar people and on the go. Being in a studio, with models and directors over the last couple of years is new and a little less natural for me. It’s been really fun though; photographing more people and establishing what works best for the subject so as to produce better shots. When you do get in the sea to shoot or surf however, I appreciate it that much more. It’s actually been very different to how I thought it might be.
 
I was definitely pretty apprehensive about moving back to a city. I’ve lived here before and didn’t surf for the best part of a year whilst working a 9-5. But this time has been different; being freelance and having the flexibility to get to the sea whenever possible. Ironically I’ve actually ended up scoring better waves both surfing and with the camera whilst being in Bristol. 



How does it fell when all the variables come together and you find yourself in the right place at the right time?
 
The moments when it all comes together are fleeting, but amazing.  With photography that’s the thing I really like though, you get to take something away and prolong that kind of excitement. I find even when you’re running or swimming around in the moment to satisfy an idea and get the shot, when it comes to looking back at the photograph it can create a couple more ideas again.
 
Different places, the light, people or framing. It’s never ending which is the best.
When you line up with somebody in the water and capture them surfing when they’ve maybe not seen themselves before is nice too. Especially in Pembs.



The first bit of Finisterre kit you owned?

A hardwearing navy blue shirt and the water bottle. Both are usually on me.

Visit our Bristol store if you find yourself in town.