Ray Collins is a gentleman of culture. He takes a far more elegant approach to taking images than those that frequent the pages of the majority of surfing magazines. Excuse the cliché, but it’s refreshing stuff – capturing the intricacies of water movement. More than a surf photographer, Ray is an artist.
“Honestly, I just want to make art. I want the wave to break, I want to witness it and interpret it in my own way and share it with the world,” says Ray. “I want to record the final moments of a wave's life.”
About as far away as he could hope to be from his home on the NSW South Coast, Ray is currently in Europe, sampling the wondrous delights of Berlin. After a day spent cycling around the city, he’s booked himself a table at Berlin’s famous Nocti Vagus. A restaurant in which you dine in total darkness, served by a team of blind waiters. It's fair to say he’s very excited.
Honestly, I just want to make art. I want the wave to break, I want to witness it and interpret it in my own way and share it with the world"
Perhaps it’s this appreciation and interest in the senses that have provided him with such an artistic eye. The reason why unridable lumps of water breaking over shallow ledges of rock are what he describes as “photogenic sculptures.” It's little wonder that he scored 1st 2nd and 3rd place in the Australian Surf Photo of The Year awards in 2012.
Ray’s a well travelled man, although that's hardly a surprise in any division of modern photography. He’s spent years documenting some of the most prolific waves the world has to offer. Just next week, he’s off to the Maldives to shoot with The Perfect Wave.
I fall in love with new photos every day, there is inspiration everywhere"
“I have little pockets of beautiful waves wherever I travel really and I like shooting the person who completes the composition. People who ride barrels well are always the best to shoot with for me," he says. "Waves and the ocean are definitely my main inspiration. But anything with beautiful light is always nice to capture, portraits are great. I fall in love with new photos every day, there is inspiration everywhere."
Despite his artistic approach to documenting the finer details, Ray certainly hasn’t hidden from the firing line of heaving barrels. Surf photography is never complete without an element of risk and he has found himself on the receiving end of that fact on numerous occasions.
A few seasons ago on the North Shore, Ray spent a session shooting with Mark Healy when his day took a tun for the worse.
I got sucked over backwards trying to penetrate through a really thick slab wave at home. It was a really violent beating"
“I had shot Mark looking outside the tube kind of over his shoulder and the next wave was a big, dark closeout. It ripped my fins off and swept me down towards rocky point. That was scary,” he recalls. “Only a few weeks ago, I got sucked over backwards trying to penetrate through a really thick slab wave at home. It was a really violent beating, ripped my housing out of my hands and cut my hands feet and head up on the reef.”
Ray has a pretty different background of work compared to that to which he now dedicates most of his time, surprising for someone who seems so involved with the arts, but perhaps responsible for his hardiness in the heavy stuff. He spent years in the depths of the mines of Illwarra. Gruelling, grubby work, a million miles away from the crystal clear waters he now so often lingers around.
“I suffered a pretty bad knee injury in the coal mines, and it gave me a lot of down time. During the rehabilitation, my surgeon suggested swimming. That was around the time I bought my first housing and the rest is history,” he explains.
Shortly after, he had his first image printed on the pages of the media.
I can still remember the moment I was in the tube with him. Its a memory I will have until I am an old man"
“It was of my friend Dylan Robertson standing in a big tube doing a peace sign, it was in Surfing Life magazine in Australia. I can still remember the moment I was in the tube with him. It's a memory I will have until I am an old man.”
If you want to check out anymore of Ray's work, check out raycollins.com.