Fran Miller - Photographer
When we started CURL, Fran was already on our mind. We had seen her work on social media and were amazed by her talent. She is passionate by women’s surfing and so are we! It was only natural that we would “hook” up and do some work together!
Ladies, meet Fran!
Fran, can you tell us about who you are? (where you grew up, where you live, what do you do all day, you fav things to do, your sports)
I grew up in Sydney but I now live on the Gold Coast of Australia. I am a surf photographer which means I spend most of the day chasing around surfers trying to get the best photos of them. This includes photos of them surfing in the water, as well as the lifestyle photos of them out of the water. I also spend a lot of time editing photos on the computer from photoshoots. Apart from that, I try and go surfing every single day too, even if it is just for half an hour. I’m very lucky that I live only a minute from the beach, so it makes it easy to just walk down the street and jump into the water. My favourite thing to do is spend time with my friends. We usually meet up every weekend to do things like see live music, go on trips into the countryside or to visit art shows. Art is a massive passion of mine. I enjoy looking at it, seeing new and established artists in shows, books and online, and also scribbling out a few lines myself. For sports outside of surfing, I like to dive and swim in the ocean and to go fishing!
when did photography come in your life? When did you decide it was something you were going to do full time.
Photography has been in my life since I was a child. I was always using my sister’s camera or cameras from my parents to try and capture images of everything I was doing. This was mostly either surfing, skateboarding or snowboarding. I read so many magazines growing up, including everything from surf magazines to Vogue, so I always had the stimulus of world class photographers and their visual influence upon me from a very young age. I never studied professionally in the area, but I have dedicated years now to the art and practice of photography. It would a have been a few years ago now that I decided to do it full time. This came about from taking a leap of faith. I knew I was producing world class imagery, and was fortunate enough to have a number of the world’s best surfers believe in me too, which to this day still gives me a lot of confidence in the quality of my work. But of course, I have always had to believe in myself first. The more I believe in me, the more other people believe in me.
A big question, why the water?
In terms of why I started shooting in the water, it was a natural progression that matched the passion I had for surfing. You can mind surf a wave that you watch on land, but nothing matches the energy of being in the ocean. There is a lot more intensity and emotion when shooting from the water. You are surrounded by the energy of waves and the energy of the surfer, and I think that translates into the feelings in my photos.
Do you actually shoot outside of the water?
I definitely shoot outside of the water too. I like colour, texture, tone and space. I naturally keep my eye opened to visions that incorporate those elements. Also, I take plenty of lifestyle images related to surfing. Sometimes the best waves are the ones you recall to your friends after a surf and capturing that emotion is just as important as the wave itself.
You photos are so dreamy, but no doubt being in the water to photograph must not always be easy. Tell us about the fun aspect and the difficult aspect of the job.
The fun aspects are that you get to spend your time with really cool people and travel around the world doing so. There is a lot of together time in photography, and you build close relationships that really impact you as a person. Even in my local community, I have gotten to meet so many different people that I probably otherwise would not have done so, and that really broadens your mind and who you are as a person. And then getting to travel with your friends is just a blast. You have to continue to be professional, getting the shots, but travelling with a purpose is a pretty powerful motivator.
The difficult parts of the job are quite varied. Physically, swimming in the surf is demanding, and doing so for hours, even more so. Travelling can be tiring to, and when you need to get photos, there are no excuses. You can’t just take a rest day because you need it, you don’t get that choice. I have had numerous injuries from shooting in the water, and my body is covered in scars from it. You have to be responsible for a large amount of expensive equipment too, which can be stressful. There is also the parts of the job which aren’t glamourous at all, such as editing photos for hours on a computer, and emailing and meeting clients all the time. There is also the business aspects such as invoicing and accounting which is the worst, and consequently why I have a business manager because I couldn’t operate without them. Honestly I would say, to be a world class surf photographer, you have to be able to suffer a lot. Not very glamourous, but definitely a reality. And that’s all on top of being skilled enough to visualise and capture a stunning photo.
Any close call with surfers?
All the time! But I think the surfers get more scared than I do. If I think it’s going to be close, I just go under. Professionals are surfing twice as fast and powerfully than regular surfers, and I never feel in danger with them because they commit to what they are doing and so I know where to go and when. It’s usually inexperienced surfers that freak out. They do weird, unexpected movements because they think you are like a tree in the surf that can’t move and have to avoid, which isn’t the case at all.
By photographing mostly women you are rally going for a niche. Are you going to extend your work or stick to that niche?
As a woman, I believe in women’s surfing, as I have done so for the twenty years already that I have surfed. Men’s surfing already takes the majority of budgets for advertising and endorsements. There are already hundreds of cameras on John John Florence and Kelly Slater. But I know how much time, energy and commitment so many of the women’s surfers are putting in to their careers with little support or recognition. I enjoy photographing all surfing, and I don’t think we would ever say someone primarily shooting men’s surfing is shooting a niche. As much as it has progressed already in my lifetime, the reality is that if you are a female and you surf, you are not being treated equally, and I am committed to doing my part in rectifying that imbalance.
So, do you still get to surf? Isn't it frustrating to be "working" when you could be surfing?
I still surf more than the average person because I live so close to the beach. I don’t find it frustrating to be ‘working’ when I could be surfing because I get as much joy equally by my passion to create as I do from surfing. And the reality is, if I wasn’t working shooting, I would be working doing something else, so I still wouldn’t be surfing during work hours. That being said, I am probably queen of the one foot grovel, since that is usually the conditions I am left to surf in. But some people live in places without surf or with terrible conditions, so I actually consider myself to be fortunate to not only be able to surf, but to even have the opportunity to be a surf photographer.
Any plan for the future?
I feel very fortunate that I get to do something that really allows me to expand my creative senses and progress my mind. I am planning to do several photographic exhibitions over the next year which gives me the platform in which to showcase my own visions and ideas. I don’t want to be trapped by the expectations of the surf industry. I think that is so important. There is so much to do, see and learn in this world. My plans are basically to never stay static and to keep evolving as a person.
Find Fran: www.franmiller.com or @fran90210