When it comes to surf photography, you may think that you've seen it all. But that's not true unless you've heard of James Midwinter. His characteristic minimalist style and striking scenes make you think twice about the background clutter in your selfies. He worked in the photographic industry for most of his twenties, and four years ago he moved to his current home base in Newquay, Cornwall. We connected briefly to discuss his style, what drives him, and an excellent life lesson. Enjoy!
Photo credit: JJ Midwinter
What came first, minimalism photography or surf photography? Why did you decide to blend the two?
Minimalism came first. I tried to reduce down what was in the regular landscape images I was shooting, creating images with less and less in the frame. I noticed that when the tide receded on my local beach, the thin sheet of water it left turned the beach into a mirror, and allowed me to shoot the people walking across it as if they were in a white void, stepping across a mirror. The silhouette of a surfer is quite iconic looking, and I love surfing, so mixing the two came naturally.
The mix definitely creates iconic images. How do you decide what you'll shoot for the day?
Cornwall's such a beautiful county, there's always somewhere new to shoot, so I'm continually exploring, but a lot of the best shots I've taken have been on the spur of the moment while walking my dog on local beaches. Always carrying a camera with you, and owning a dog are my main (if irresponsible) tips for taking better photos.
Words to live by. So when you're out with your dog, what are your favorite conditions to work in?
Mist, mist, mist, fog, more mist, maybe some sea spray.
I should have guessed that! Assuming you have those conditions, what does a successful surfing photo look like to you?
To me, it's a feeling the image gives you. If it makes you feel something, even if it's just the feeling of wanting to get out in the water, then in my eyes it's successful.
If that's the case, all the photos I've seen of yours are successful. Although I'm sure it's not always easy. What lessons have you learned from photography?
Keep failing quickly and often and eventually, you'll achieve something good.
That's powerful knowledge. It's evident you've achieved many good things. Where do you find inspiration to create?
All over the place, but generally, I tend not to look at minimalist or surf photographers. Instead, I'll look at different types of mediums; painters, video artists, installations and let that spark new ideas in my photography.
That's clever. Where can we find out more about you and your work?
www.jjmidwinter.com for more of my photography, and @jamesmidwinter for the other stuff I get up to.