Joel Alston / by Eryn Withawhy

Joel_Alston_portrait.jpg

JOEL ALSTON HAS QUICKLY SOLIDIFIED HIS POSITION IN THE NEWCASTLE SURF PHOTOGRAPHY SCENE, ADDING HIS UNIQUE STYLE TO THE COMMUNITY SINCE BEGINNING HIS FORAY INTO THE PRACTICE ONLY A YEAR AGO. NOT ONE TO BOAST OF HIS TALENTS, WHEN ASKED FOR THIS INTERVIEW THE SHY CREATIVE GUSHED ABOUT OTHER LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THEIR STRENGTHS. IT IS FOR THIS REASON THAT HE GAINED THE ATTENTION OF STEEL CITY COLLECTIVE WHEN SHOOTING THEIR WORK AT NEWCASTLE’S BOOGIEFEST. HIS HUMILITY, EAGERNESS TO LEARN, KIND SPIRIT AND DETERMINA- TION, COMBINED WITH A KEEN EYE FOR COMPOSITION AND A DESIRE TO PUSH HIS WORK TO NEW LEVELS MAKES HIM AN AMAZING ASSET TO ANY INDIVIDUAL, BUSINESS, ORGANISATION OR EVENT.

ERYN WITH A WHY OF STEEL CITY COLLECTIVE MET WITH ALSTON AT HIS HOME TO TALK ABOUT PICTURES, PASSION, PEOPLE AND THE PURSUIT OF PUBLICATION.

 

EWA?: Excuse the pun, but there’s a sea of surf photographers in Newcastle... What makes you different?

 

JA: I don’t just shoot surf. A lot of other surf photographers DO shoot other stuff, but I’m starting to move into film photography and push myself into areas that no-one else shoots...

 

EWA?: That’s a bit naïve, isn’t it?

 

joel_1JA: Mmm, I ‘spose... I meant more that I’m branching into a more conceptual art form of photography, coming up with different ideas, taking photos of things that shouldn’t be, that you wouldn’t see every day.

 

EWA?: More surreal shots?

 

JA: Yes.

 

EWA?: Why photography?

 

JA: I never initially ever thought it would be photography... It was kind of an accident how I fell into it. Dad got a 550D for work and I took it out one big June / July swell and got two really good photos of the breakwall which were both run by NBN news and then Dan from Totem Brand hit me up to get those photos on his website and then I thought, I could actually do this...

 

EWA?: So your shots ended up on NBN? I know that there’s a lot of interesting things in the world of publishing. If you get a really good frame, what do you do with it? I notice you don’t just put stuff straight up on Facebook. How do you go about getting your images out there?

 

JA: Well, if it’s landscape stuff I usually send it in to NBN, because everyone watches the news and that gets my name out there. If it’s a good bodyboarding photo I usually send it in to fluidzone... They’ve got a readership of over 140,000, so that gets people coming across to my facebook as well... But, if I get a REALLY good shot of a pro bodyboarder then I send it to the mags, I’d hopefully get a cover spread and get paid good money for that.

 

EWA?: Where have you been published? You mentioned Fluidzone, NBN...

 

JA: Fluidzone facebook page, NBN, Riptide have done an online gallery of one of my shots...Newcastle Mirage, I guess! Some of my photos have been used in promotional and advertising material for the Inter- national Bodyboarding Association Australasia and also for Central Coast Beach Fest.

 

EWA?: Who are your influences? Mainly locals? Have you studied much?

 

JA: I’m self taught but a lot of the other surf photographers in Newcastle – Matt Mollison, Blake Parker, Elliot Swift – those three helped me out the most, Matt Mollison helped me out heaps when I first started... and then I’ve always looked up to Nathan Henshaw’s photography and Charlie Hardy, they are both amazing and they’re really good at shooting everything and anything and they’re both doing really good, so to have those photographers around Newcastle and seeing the work that they do pushes me to go harder as well.

 

EWA?: What are some of the failings of the surf photography community as you see in Newcastle?

 

joel_2JA: I guess it’s a lot to do with your name, and it’s hard to establish a name especially when you’re starting out. Even if you’ve got all the gear. If no-one knows who you are and you get a good shot of someone and you send it to everyone, the chances of it getting run are very, very low... because no-one knows who you are, which is silly. But then you’ve got guys like Josh from Port Macquarie, Nathan Henshaw, Blake Parker, all these other guys that have got shots run by Fluidzone, Riptide, Movement, Cloth & Dagger – they’ve got all these shots run because they are well established and are friends with professional bodyboard- ers... It doesn’t mean they are not taking good photos, they are taking great photos, fucking amazing photos, but that helps. It’s hard to break through. I’ve only just started to get a relationship with fluidzone so I’m starting to get more shots run by them but it took me ages to get that relationship developed. Photographers know that the community is a competitive environment; I don’t think many photographers would say so, but I will. In the end, bodyboarders all go out and surfers all go out together and they all want to be the best and get the best wave, but surf photographers can’t do the same, they can’t just go out and shoot happily with each other...It’s about “oh, I got a better shot than you” even if it’s not going to get published anywhere, even if it’s just shooting a shorey, there always seems to be a competitive fire between it and I don’t like it. I just want to be able to go out and just friendly shoot – friendly fire! And just have fun shooting with other photographers. If we all love surf and like shooting surf... why can’t we all go out and shoot? It’s so intense when you’re out there shooting with other photographers. You don’t really talk much, you just sit in the channel or you sit in the break and it’s just very quiet and you’re fighting each other, swimming around for the right spot, and you might get in another person’s shot. I just hate the competitiveness in Newcastle – all the photographers I know are such great dudes, and they all have so much talent, it just always seems like a competition. That’s what I feel anyway. I feel intimidated, I guess. It could be all me, I’m not sure. That’s just how I feel.

 

EWA?: You’ve got an exhibition coming up at Shop Steel City. Tell us what to expect.

 

JA: I think the majority of it is going to be surf photos. Just because it does sell in Newcastle but if it was up to me I’d do hardly any surf stuff and just a lot of landscape and portrait... not necessarily photos of anything special...a lot of bokeh shots. I love shallow depth of field photos. Even if it’s a photo of a flower or a doorhandle, or anything, it makes everything look good. That’s what I love doing. Pushing images to abstraction. I like taking photos where you try to fool the person looking at it – they don’t know what it iswhen they first look at it and then they’ve got to think about it. If it was up to me I’d just do a whole exhibi- tion on that...but it will be mostly surf, local landscapes, some of my urban art and decay work, maybe, and all the other photos in my portfolio will be available as posters or prints as well.

 

EWA?: Having your exhibition in what is essentially an art gallery, will you cater to a more artistic crowd that may not be familiar with your work – including your more abstract or con- ceptual images?

 

JA: That’s a good point. Yeah. That’s a good question. If I can try to capture something that they respond to, that would be good. I’m just going to put up what I think is interesting and that’s what the exhibition is for. I’m going to put up what I like and hopefully the audience does too.

 

EWA?: What’s next for you as a photographer?

 

JA: Hopefully get accepted into CATC, go travelling – I’m going to Sumatra next May for a surf trip, Cairns next week, more commercial work, I’ve thought about food photography... I want to do more modelling shoots – fashion and portraits, just really natural images. The best photos are taken when people aren’t expecting them. It’s a really powerful thing to do with a camera.

 

Like the Steel City Collective facebook page for exhibition dates or check out Joel Alston Photography for more of Joel’s work. Prints and posters are also available from Shop Steel City.

 

facebook.com/steelcitycollective

facebook.com/joelalstonphotography

JOEL ALSTON HAS QUICKLY SOLIDIFIED HIS POSITION IN THE NEWCASTLE SURF PHOTOGRAPHY SCENE, ADDING HIS UNIQUE STYLE TO THE COMMUNITY SINCE BEGINNING HIS FORAY INTO THE PRACTICE ONLY A YEAR AGO. NOT ONE TO BOAST OF HIS TALENTS, WHEN ASKED FOR THIS INTERVIEW THE SHY CREATIVE GUSHED ABOUT OTHER LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THEIR STRENGTHS. IT IS FOR THIS REASON THAT HE GAINED THE ATTENTION OF STEEL CITY COLLECTIVE WHEN SHOOTING THEIR WORK AT NEWCASTLE’S BOOGIEFEST. HIS HUMILITY, EAGERNESS TO LEARN, KIND SPIRIT AND DETERMINA- TION, COMBINED WITH A KEEN EYE FOR COMPOSITION AND A DESIRE TO PUSH HIS WORK TO NEW LEVELS MAKES HIM AN AMAZING ASSET TO ANY INDIVIDUAL, BUSINESS, ORGANISATION OR EVENT. ERYN WITH A WHY OF STEEL CITY COLLECTIVE MET WITH ALSTON AT HIS HOME TO TALK ABOUT PICTURES, PASSION, PEOPLE AND THE PURSUIT OF PUBLICATION. EWA?: Excuse the pun, but there’s a sea of surf photographers in Newcastle... What makes you different? JA: I don’t just shoot surf. A lot of other surf photographers DO shoot other stuff, but I’m starting to move into film photography and push myself into areas that no-one else shoots... EWA?: That’s a bit naïve, isn’t it? JA: Mmm, I ‘spose... I meant more that I’m branching into a more conceptual art form of photography, coming up with different ideas, taking photos of things that shouldn’t be, that you wouldn’t see every day. EWA?: More surreal shots? JA: Yes. EWA?: Why photography? JA: I never initially ever thought it would be photography... It was kind of an accident how I fell into it. Dad got a 550D for work and I took it out one big June / July swell and got two really good photos of the breakwall which were both run by NBN news and then Dan from Totem Brand hit me up to get those photos on his website and then I thought, I could actually do this... EWA?: So your shots ended up on NBN? I know that there’s a lot of interesting things in the world of publishing. If you get a really good frame, what do you do with it? I notice you don’t just put stuff straight up on Facebook. How do you go about getting your images out there? JA: Well, if it’s landscape stuff I usually send it in to NBN, because everyone watches the news and that gets my name out there. If it’s a good bodyboarding photo I usually send it in to fluidzone... They’ve got a readership of over 140,000, so that gets people coming across to my facebook as well... But, if I get a REALLY good shot of a pro bodyboarder then I send it to the mags, I’d hopefully get a cover spread and get paid good money for that. EWA?: Where have you been published? You mentioned Fluidzone, NBN... JA: Fluidzone facebook page, NBN, Riptide have done an online gallery of one of my shots...Newcastle Mirage, I guess! Some of my photos have been used in promotional and advertising material for the Inter- national Bodyboarding Association Australasia and also for Central Coast Beach Fest.

EWA?: Who are your influences? Mainly locals? Have you studied much? JA: I’m self taught but a lot of the other surf photographers in Newcastle – Matt Mollison, Blake Parker, Elliot Swift – those three helped me out the most, Matt Mollison helped me out heaps when I first started... and then I’ve always looked up to Nathan Henshaw’s photography and Charlie Hardy, they are both amazing and they’re really good at shooting everything and anything and they’re both doing really good, so to have those photographers around Newcastle and seeing the work that they do pushes me to go harder as well. EWA?: What are some of the failings of the surf photography community as you see in Newcastle? JA: I guess it’s a lot to do with your name, and it’s hard to establish a name especially when you’re starting out. Even if you’ve got all the gear. If no-one knows who you are and you get a good shot of someone and you send it to everyone, the chances of it getting run are very, very low... because no-one knows who you are, which is silly. But then you’ve got guys like Josh from Port Macquarie, Nathan Henshaw, Blake Parker, all these other guys that have got shots run by Fluidzone, Riptide, Movement, Cloth & Dagger – they’ve got all these shots run because they are well established and are friends with professional bodyboard- ers... It doesn’t mean they are not taking good photos, they are taking great photos, fucking amazing photos, but that helps. It’s hard to break through. I’ve only just started to get a relationship with fluidzone so I’m starting to get more shots run by them but it took me ages to get that relationship developed. Photographers know that the community is a competitive environment; I don’t think many photographers would say so, but I will. In the end, bodyboarders all go out and surfers all go out together and they all want to be the best and get the best wave, but surf photographers can’t do the same, they can’t just go out and shoot happily with each other...It’s about “oh, I got a better shot than you” even if it’s not going to get published anywhere, even if it’s just shooting a shorey, there always seems to be a competitive fire between it and I don’t like it. I just want to be able to go out and just friendly shoot – friendly fire! And just have fun shooting with other photographers. If we all love surf and like shooting surf... why can’t we all go out and shoot? It’s so intense when you’re out there shooting with other photographers. You don’t really talk much, you just sit in the channel or you sit in the break and it’s just very quiet and you’re fighting each other, swimming around for the right spot, and you might get in another person’s shot. I just hate the competitiveness in Newcastle – all the photographers I know are such great dudes, and they all have so much talent, it just always seems like a competition. That’s what I feel anyway. I feel intimidated, I guess. It could be all me, I’m not sure. That’s just how I feel. EWA?: You’ve got an exhibition coming up at Shop Steel City. Tell us what to expect. JA: I think the majority of it is going to be surf photos. Just because it does sell in Newcastle but if it was up to me I’d do hardly any surf stuff and just a lot of landscape and portrait... not necessarily photos of anything special...a lot of bokeh shots. I love shallow depth of field photos. Even if it’s a photo of a flower or a doorhandle, or anything, it makes everything look good. That’s what I love doing. Pushing images to abstraction. I like taking photos where you try to fool the person looking at it – they don’t know what it iswhen they first look at it and then they’ve got to think about it. If it was up to me I’d just do a whole exhibi- tion on that...but it will be mostly surf, local landscapes, some of my urban art and decay work, maybe, and all the other photos in my portfolio will be available as posters or prints as well. EWA?: Having your exhibition in what is essentially an art gallery, will you cater to a more artistic crowd that may not be familiar with your work – including your more abstract or con- ceptual images? JA: That’s a good point. Yeah. That’s a good question. If I can try to capture something that they respond to, that would be good. I’m just going to put up what I think is interesting and that’s what the exhibition is for. I’m going to put up what I like and hopefully the audience does too. EWA?: What’s next for you as a photographer? JA: Hopefully get accepted into CATC, go travelling – I’m going to Sumatra next May for a surf trip, Cairns next week, more commercial work, I’ve thought about food photography... I want to do more modelling shoots – fashion and portraits, just really natural images. The best photos are taken when people aren’t expecting them. It’s a really powerful thing to do with a camera. Like the Steel City Collective facebook page for exhibition dates or check out Joel Alston Photography for more of Joel’s work. Prints and posters are also available from Shop Steel City. facebook.com/steelcitycollective    facebook.com/joelalstonphotography