Fanning has just been attacked live on the WSL feed and the beach bar is buzzing with opinions and speculation. Nick and I watch the replays. While the world is suddenly full of shark experts Nick quietly watches the flailing Fanning punch the fish and simply offers ‘he’s a lucky boy.’ We don’t get the lunch we planned, but head instead back to the water’s edge to shoot Oli Adams and Luke Dillon in the final.
Nick Pumphrey is tall, laconic and dressed in black. He’s easy company and seems utterly lacking in any pretensions. He’s not long been back from a mission to the Outer Hebrides with Rhythm Clothing shooting their new product line. ‘Yeah it was awesome. I put it all together and headed up there’. Oli and Luke head out for their heat. ‘It was a real inspiration.’ I push him on what else motivates him. ‘I’m open to it all really. I find inspiration in Instagram, people I meet, other photographers’ work, everything I suppose.’
For decades he’d pour over surfing literature while running his restaurant
For decades he’d pour over surfing literature while running his restaurant in Hossegor (Where the Sunset Suns played). Between shifts and surfing he absorbed composition and began developing a photographer’s eye long before he ever considered shooting professionally. ‘I’d always be checking that little name in the bottom corner’.
A career change is always difficult. Especially if you’re ditching a job you don’t hate and even more so if you’re planning to go into the arts. ‘I think you’ve got to go for it. Full immersion you know. Only then can you really develop your eye. When you’ve freed yourself from worrying too much about money and business that’s when it comes together’.
I mentioned I’d read a quote somewhere that claimed if you were worrying about the cost of your work then you were involved in Commerce not Art. ‘Yeah that’s true. There’s a freedom to it. A liberation. And the more you shoot the more you’re open to inspiration and that feeds back into your work and the stoke.’ Is that the Pumphrey Manifesto? ‘Ha ha maybe.’
Do whatever you want to do, whatever drives your creativity really
We talk photography. We dissect the digital vs. print but we don’t come up with anything new. Film is its own entity and digital too. ‘Whatever you want to do, whatever drives your creativity really.’ Nick’s work is beautiful in its deceptive simplicity. Lifestyle and landscape are as important as soul arches or bashed lips. A time and a place suffuse his images of muted tones and open framing. They capture the surf experience of real life: simple and stoke filled.
‘I was really moved by Micky Smith’s work out in Ireland. Micky’s a real artist he captures the mood of what those guys were trying to do. Real documentary work about passionate characters. Awesome stuff. And Chris Burkard, too. He’s a humbling landscape photographer, but I love most that he gets off his arse and puts a crew together, pours over the maps and captures all that adventure. I was sat with my dad watching the TED talk he did and said – I’m going to do that. That’s how we ended up in the Hebrides.’
Where next? ‘I’d love to head back to Norway. It’s got a beautiful mad energy, just those mountains rising straight out of the sea. It really puts you in your place.’
Luke Dillon takes down Oli in the final and Nick’s itching to get in and have some waves himself. ‘I’ve got a brand new 6’9” Christenson Submariner single fin. It suits my ability if I’m honest’ he admits ‘there’s no 6 to 12 surfing here, just glide.’
And that perfectly encapsulates Nick’s work and lifestyle. So maybe that’s the Pumphrey Manifesto