One of Fran Miller's moody, beautiful surf scenes.
Here's a thought—behind every gorgeous snap of our favorite surfer engulfed in an epic curl is a photographer who put themselves out on a limb (or board) to capture the moment. Fran Miller is a surf photographer out of Australia whose passion for waves and the languid ease of longboarding beauty has caught our eye a number of times across various surf Instagrams, so we were stoked to take a minute and discuss the ins and outs of surf photos, wetsuit fails, and the need for occasional breaks for fail videos with the rising art star, who cites such diverse inpiration points as Caravaggio and camera obscura lensman John Chiara as influences on her work.
BIKINI: How did you fall in love with photography?
FRAN MILLER: My family has always been involved with the arts. My mom has always been a very visual person, doing a lot of painting and art, and my sister is a passionate photographer. From a very young age, I was obsessed with photos in magazines. I would spend all my pocket money every month on buying every magazine out there, from Vogue to National Geographic to Transworld Surf. It is difficult to describe, but really there is a feeling within me that just brings me joy when I'm taking photographs.
BIKINI: Who are some of your fave photographers?
FM: This is a really tough question because I have so many that I love and infinitely more that I respect. Helmut Newton was genius. Joel Sartore and his work photographing biodiversity fascinates me. Chris Mccaw's work is just mind-blowing. Within surfing, I really love the work of my friend Chris Grundy.
BIKINI: Shooting while surfing/being on the water can't be easy--how do you do it?
FM: As with anything, years of practice has led me to shoot surfing in water with confidence! It really is quite difficult, though, because there are so many elements to deal with — waves, weather, wildlife, surfers, not to mention all the camera gear. I try to surf as much as possible in my free time because it helps me understand the ocean and the movements of surfing, plus it keeps me fit and healthy. I grew up surfing, so I have over 20 years of surfing knowledge behind me. I think the combination of high ocean awareness, strong surf fitness, and confidence in my technical photographing skills have been the key to allowing me to be out in the water.
Miller set up for a shoot on the beach.
BIKINI: What's the biggest bungle you've ever found yourself in out on the water?
FM: Oh wow — probably too many bungles to remember! One that stands out and is probably quite relevant was when I was wearing a wetsuit that had a terribly designed zip on the back. Every time I swam under a wave, the zip would come down my back and my suit would fill up with water. If that wasn't annoying enough, I was photographing in some rather large waves on the Gold Coast that day, and my suit filled up with so much water that firstly, I ended up looking like the Michelin man and, secondly, I almost drowned because I was being weighed down so heavily and didn't have the freedom to swim through the heavy incoming surf. Well-designed swimwear is critical!
BIKINI: Do you have a favorite subject?
FM: My favorite subject to shoot is women's longboard surfing. The combination of elegant movements combined with techincal surfing prowess is really captivating. That being said, probably the world's best female shortboard surfer Stephanie Gilmore defines those traits, so perhaps I should be saying that my favorite subjects are those that combine style and skill in their surfing.
BIKINI: Other than surfers in motion, what else do you like to snap?
FM: I like photograhing textured surfaces and symmetry. I'm also a fan of moody, emotional landscapes. I like photographing anything that captivates and moves me from within. And wild horses. I like photographing wild horses.
BIKINI: If you weren't a photographer, what else would you be doing?
FM: Surfing more. Or shaping surfboards. I have never shaped a surfboard in my whole life, but I think it's something that I would enjoy doing!