Photographer Chris Blott continues his project for the digital edition of Ernest Journal: a series of unplanned portraits where each person nominates then interviews the next. Filmmaker James Aiken picks up the conversation with surfer and photographer James Bowden
James Aiken: How did your relationship with the sea begin?
James Bowden: I guess it began in North Devon, when my mum forced me to try surfing. I wasn’t really interested at the time (I was 11 or 12) but became instantly hooked and have been in love with and obsessed with surfing and the sea ever since. My mum’s probably regretting that one.
James Aiken: You often say the most fun you have in the water is bodysurfing. Why?
James Bowden: It’s such a simple pleasure. It’s just you, some fins and maybe a small handplane. Your expectations are low, so just a simple slide along a wave, or head dip under a lip can be the best wave you’ve had in ages. Plus the beach near my house sucks for surfing.
James Aiken: You’ve roughed it on trips in the past. Do you feel less inclined to spend time in uncomfortable situations as you get older?
James Bowden: Yes, I would say so! As your wealth grows larger and your body grows older, you start taking those comforts you couldn’t afford in the past for granted. But, I think a few cold nights in a tent or under a tarp brings you back in line. It’s more fun, and no one’s interested in a story involving a boutique hotel.
James Aiken: Why do you use old film stock for your personal work?
James Bowden: It just makes a change from digital; it gets you away from computer screens and it’s way more fun. You can take your camera and a bunch of film away with you, pick it up, shoot a picture and put it down again and enjoy your surroundings. No checking the back of the camera or downloading cards.
James Aiken: Your photography is very reactive. Do you find yourself orchestrating a situation in order to get a shot you have in mind?
James Bowden: Sometimes, when I’m on a shoot and need to get something specific, I’ll try to stimulate a moment that might make a good image. But I would much rather take a step back and observe and, as you said, be reactive to what’s going on in front of me. A real moment always looks better.
James Aiken: Do you have any advice on how to put a tent up in a sub zero gale?
James Bowden: Before attempting to put up the tent, make sure you tell everyone how amazing it is, how easy it is to put up, and how long it’s been a trusted companion of yours, and then try to keep your cool as one by one, all the poles snap and shatter.
James Aiken: Who have you chosen to be next in the CONTACT chain?
James Bowden: I nominate Jackson Lynch who lives on the banks of the Teifi near Cardigan.