Special Nonexistent Furniture
03 February, 2015

Aquabumps - Eugene Tan's Bondi bliss

The creator of Aquabumps shares his love for Bondi with Karen McCartney – the winter solitude, the summer mayhem and the golden light all year round. We explore Eugene Tan's book A Day in Bondi, created by drawing on images taken over the last decade. 

You have been photographing Bondi beach since 1999 and know it intimately as a photographer and a surfer. What has changed and what has stayed the same?
No two days are the same at Bondi Beach – the people, the light, the conditions – that's what I love about it. I never really know what I'm going to get until I ride my bike over the hill.

Bondi as a whole has changed drastically over the past 15 years with new developments. There are more restaurants, fresh food providores and options for locals. Bondi is adapting to what people want living in a village – it's a great thing.

The one thing that never changes is the transient assembly of people and yet at the core there's a real community of likeminded positive people.

You photograph in the 'wee' hours, early in the morning. What is it that is special for you about that time?
The light is warm and golden, especially in August – you get some of the best sunrises in Bondi. In summer time the beach is packed by 6am with everyone fulfilling their morning rituals and in winter it can at times be just me and my camera.

I love the diversity of solitude versus mayhem which can be dictated purely by the sun. Capturing the contrast is creatively satisfying, for me anyway.

The combination of sky, water, light and people is one of infinite variety. What makes a great shot for you?
Warm golden light either sunrise or sunset, waves and stillness.

The book represents a selection from over ten years of work – what was the process of what to include and what to reject?
The book took 18 months to create and produce. I worked with an incredible art director and together we would go through the archives of images. It's nice to have someone else's perspective of my images and how they might work alongside another or be cropped for the book. He would often select images that I may have dismissed – a fresh perspective was key to the creative process and edit of my work for this book.

The device of  'A Day at Bondi' with timeframes captured throughout the day allows for changing light and changing numbers of people. Do you have a favourite section?
I've gotta say because I shoot sunrise every morning it's hands down my favourite time of day and favourite section of this book.

Hovering over a packed beach peak summer from a chopper comes a close second.

The book is beautifully designed with a dynamic change of pace from aerial shots to detailed close-ups, from busy images to calm, action to passive. Was this sense of contrast important to you?
The flow of the day and telling the story of a day in Bondi was super important. I wanted people to experience the Bondi that I see most days and love. The layout changed many times, and was very considered, to ensure that you are taken on the journey of Bondi in all its glory from sunrise to sunset.

The underwater photographs bring a different aesthetic – muted and soft – is that an aspect of the creative process you enjoy?
I love shooting in the water, the conditions have to be right but when they are there's nothing better.

I particularly love the photograph of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and the Kookaburra. Does anything surprise you after all these years?
Not much. I've seen naked human pyramids, passed out backpackers and have been chased out of the water by a huge stingray.

You have also worked in Thailand and the Maldives as well as travelling around the Australian coast. Bondi aside, do you have a favourite destination and why?
I love Hawaii; the water is warm and the light is so warm and golden. It's lush and mountainous and lapped by the rawest of coastline and beaches. I spend a month here every year, but I have to say there's still nothing like coming home to Bondi.

You opened a gallery space in 2004 in Bondi (of course) so that people can see the images in real life. Do you have any advice as to how they are best displayed?
I always think bigger is better and our bespoke framing techniques are classic and contemporary. I have 2 big pieces side by side at home – I think art should tell a story and connect you to what you love. And hey, what's not to love about the beach!

All images © Aquabumps. For a daily dose in your inbox, sign up at the Aquabumps website or follow on Instagram @aquabumps.

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