Culture: Surf Photographer Caitlin Miers

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Caitlin Miers is in her studio, sanding down the “pre-loved” picture frames that will eventually house her surf photography and illustrations. The surf is pumping but her surfboard will stay dry today; after she finishes here, she’ll dive into the water with her camera—there’s no time for catching a wave of her own when her work’s sense of intimacy (she often captures locals enjoying their home breaks) demands her full attention. The 20-year-old photography student hailing from Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, is determined to forge a career in surf photography and help other women follow in her footsteps—something that doesn’t leave a lot of time for play. But in Mier’s mind, that’s part of the deal: “I’ve always set out with a mindset that I want to get up, go to work, and absolutely love the job I have. I love what I do, so I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than photography.”

Who are some photographers you look up to? 

My main influences at the moment are definitely female photographers in the surf industry. The work of some inspiring ladies from Byron Bay is catching my eye at the moment—Carly Brown and Ming Nomchong in particular—who are just embracing all the creativity going on up there. I love longboard surf photography, and there are some pretty cool guys coming out of places like Noosa who are also really inspiring.

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There’s a lot of controversy about how women who surf are portrayed in photographs. How do you want to portray female surfers? 

These shots have really got me thinking in terms of my morals and how I think females should be portrayed. A few years ago, I would’ve been absolutely outraged and disgusted that women were being treated like sex symbols…through their looks and sexuality, rather than their surfing ability. Nowadays, I’m a little less cold on it. It’s an extremely judgmental industry and I think females are becoming more and more feminine in the way they surf. Women are more accepted in the surf these days—you don’t have to try and act all tough and be a tomboy amongst the male surfers any more; femininity is being accepted and applauded. Girls are confident in their bikinis, and not afraid to be who they are. I think a girl can be portrayed however they want to be portrayed, so long as they themselves have approved on the direction.

Does being a surfer yourself help you connect with your subjects?

Yes, absolutely. But there’s also that struggle between if you want to shoot or surf if the waves are pumping! When I go on trips, almost all of my subjects are strangers, because I’m trying to catch the locals in their own environment. Back home, I have a few girlfriends that I’ll shoot in the water, which is great, because they are also keen to see the push in exposure.

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What camera do you use and do you print your work yourself? 

I use a Canon 7D DSLR. I’ve got a 24-70mm f2.8 lens, which I use for everyday things. I also just got a Sigma 120-400mm which I use for the surf and it’s amazing! I print some of my work myself, and get other bits done at various places. I’ve been printing on recycled paper lately and that’s all done by me.

Tell me about the process of making the handmade frames you sell your prints in.

I came up with this concept about 10 months ago now, and wanted to do more with just the digital files of my images. I ran virtually anything and everything through my printer to see what worked and what didn’t work. I also sourced pre-loved frames and began creating a look that would compliment my surf imagery, which was painting them white and sanding them down to create a white-washed feel.

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What are you most excited about professionally this year? 

The highlight so far would be moving into our art studio in Mornington called Art Space 8, which houses nine other artists and creatives. This has definitely opened my mind to even more concepts and directions. I also have a few shoots lined up with some gorgeous local jewelry and fashion brands, and I’m also trying to score some internships and work experience with a few photographers and magazines to help further my industry knowledge.

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