Laurent Masurel was about twelve years old when he first felt the desire to photograph the ocean, with its play of lights and reflections and “the wave that swells and gradually fills all the space,” as he puts it. He started out with a 35mm Praktica borrowed from his father. But very quickly, he bought his own first used camera, a Nikonos V, an underwater camera, and this passion for the sea has been with him ever since.
A former competitive bodysurfer, Masurel now devotes himself entirely to photography. Between photojournalism, shoots for brand names (Patagonia, Tribord, Rip Curl, etc.), catalogues and magazines, and shoots for boardsports events, Masurel lives his passion to the fullest. He is also the official photographer of the World Surf League, an American company responsible for organizing all of the world’s professional surfing competitions. “On a surf trip,” he explains, “I try to do aquatic photography as much as possible, especially if the water is warm (Hawaii, Polynesia, Maldives, the Canary Islands, etc.). I’m a photographer who specializes in maritime themes, while in the water. I do aquatic photography and what I love most is being in that element.”
According to Masurel, a successful photo “catches the eye, even as a vignette, because it is powerful in terms of light, colors, angle, point of view, moment, innovative technique and subjective perspective, and it is often simple, with no frills. A successful photo is often the one that best meets several of these criteria at the same time.” In terms of gear, he uses a Canon EOS1DX body and ten lenses, ranging from 14mm and 600 f/4. He has also started using a hybrid with the Sony A6000 and A7S, especially when in the water, where, for lenses, he goes from the Tokina 10-17mm to the Canon 70/200mm, using Liquideye water housing devices created by Philippe Chevodian, which are “light and functional,” he explains.
In 2014, Pierre Nouqueret, director of the Hondarra agency, author of books on waves and curator of surfing exhibitions, asked Masurel for a selection of line-up photos. When Nouqueret talks about a line-up, he means the moment when “the swell of the ocean hits the coast; lines up as it approaches the shore and generates beautiful, well-formed, regular waves.” The line-up is the “take off” spot, where the surfer gets up on his board and catches the wave.
After he received the images, Nouqueret offered Masurel the opportunity to help design the book. He then decided to gather and preselect line-up photos (including his own) taken all over the world (Hawaii, Australia, France, Morocco, etc.) with specific criteria: more than two lines of waves unfurling, breaking waves, if possible, with at least one surfer riding them and breathtaking scenery all around. According to Masurel, “These photos are not easy to take. They require a lot of work in terms of the viewing angle, waiting for the best day, the best time, the best light.”
It is very rare for so many photos (nearly a hundred) taken from line-ups around the world to be gathered in a single book, which makes it a definitive work on the subject. They are usually found sparingly in trade magazines or on the internet, but the effect isn’t the same. Seeing them in print, in a cinematic format, makes you want to dive into the images.
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
Born in Paris in 1988 into a Lebanese family, Sabyl Ghoussoub is a writer, columnist and curator. His second novel, Beyrouth entre parenthèses [Beirut in Parentheses] was released by Antilope editions in August 2020.
Line-up, Pierre Nouqueret and Laurent Masurel, 48 €. Available here.