Aquabumps is becoming as iconic as the beach on which it is based. With over 40,000 daily subscribers the website reaches all corners of the world with its daily updates on the surf, lifestyle and culture that occurs at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Eugene Tan is the gentleman behind the site, and TVG had the pleasure of asking him a few questions about the journey from turning an interest into a successful career, as well some advice for people looking to follow their dreams.
TVG: Could you explain a typical day for Eugene Tan?
Uge: Up at 6am, shoot, collate my report and then onto the many facets of my business that requires my time – working on the gallery floor, creating new ideas for exhibitions, sponsorship ambassador obligations – unfortunately not as much time for shooting as I would like.
How and when did you realise Aquabumps could become a successful business?
What started as an email to my mates of the beach every morning, kept growing and growing as they sent it to their mates and so forth, but it was probably when people started coming to my work (I worked as a creative director for a design firm) to buy my photo’s out of cylinders under my desk. When I was offered my first space at North Bondi, I just felt in my gut it was worth giving it a go. A lot of what I do in business is by instinct, it’s served me well so far.
What were you doing before Aquabumps took off?
I was a creative director for a design firm. I worked long hours in the city 6 sometimes 7 days a week. I used to hate leaving the beach every morning and the shuffle to the city, so was determined to work as hard for myself and preferably close to the beach and the surf.
Which came first, the love of photography or surf? How important is the connection between the two?
I had a dark room at home, made it myself when I was about 12 years old. I started surfing around the same time – so I guess the love of both came together as one. I love the ocean and the beach – so to be able to document what I see at the place I feel most at home made complete sense to me. If I’m not shooting, I’m surfing. You should see me in Hawaii, I don’t know what to do first and kind of just run around for the first day trying to do both – I need a month there just to get over the excitement and live it.
Surf/beach photography has an extremely rich history in Australia. Past or present, are there photographers you draw inspiration from?
John Frank was my mentor and who I most admired when I first stared shooting. I followed him on a trip to Samoa for 3 weeks asked a million questions and watched everything he did. I also respect Christian Fletcher and Max Dupain immensely.
How would you describe your job to people who haven’t seen Aquabumps?
I document the beach every morning – in the water and out, send a report of what I see to 40,000 people everyday and you can buy the images on line of in my gallery in Bondi.
What has made the largest contribution to your success as a photographer?
My brain trust of mates who have given me advice along the way. But if my wife were to answer this, she would say my sheer determination, passion and the pressure I put on myself to get the best shots I can. Listening to my gut and only working with people who I want to work with – and I genuinely like.
It seems you’ve turned a passion into a successful career. What advice would you give to people out there who are looking to do the same thing?
Trust your instincts, it’s hard and it’s all consuming – but consistency and hard work always pays off in the end.
What’s your view on print media vs online?
I think there will always be a place for print – nothing beats the tangible pages of a glossy and probably what I like most is the way it’s consumed in that you enjoy it without other distractions, relaxing at the end of your day. But online allows more people to have immediate access to what your offering, you can share it immediately and you can act on it’s offer immediately and in the age where in – it’s all about immediate access.
What are the next big plans for the Aquabumps business?
Take more photo’s, an exhibition in Melbourne, some more motion films of beach life – and ideally spend more time with my family.
There are some similar websites to Aquabumps based around other Sydney Beaches. Is the beach/lifestyle photography industry becoming more competitive? How do you stay ahead of the game?
When I started Aquabumps in 1999 there was no one else documenting beach life – it’s great to see people believe there’s a business in doing what I do. As for staying ahead of the game – it takes years of hard work to build a brand, my goal is more about continuing to do what I love as opposed to staying ahead. Daily gratification from my customers and subscribers about my photo’s is what drives me, so I guess I will just keep producing work that they love.
How would you like to be viewed in 30 years, the John Witzig of our generation perhaps?
A good photographer, that could sometimes surf alright.
What do you think makes a Versatile Gentleman?
Manners, respect and compassion.
**COMPETITION**: Aquabumps has kindly offered TVG a pair of Speedo x Aquabumps boardshorts to giveaway to one lucky reader. Click HERE to enter!
The Aquabumps Gallery is open everyday, located at 151 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026, Australia. Tel: 02 9130 7788