The last couple of months, we’ve been seeing amazing surfing photographies from a mysterious Ben Potier.. When we learnt this young photographer was French, we decided to get in touch with him – his work will leave you speechless
Hi Ben, can you tell us a bit more about yourself ?
Hi KESATO, my name is Benoit (Ben) Potier, I come from France and I’m currently living in Hossegor on the south West coast of France. Here, I work as a freelance photographer specializing in Surfing and underwater photography. Previously, I worked as a surf instructor here and in the northern beaches of France in ‘Bretagne’
Great! So, as a surf photographer – what came first for you, photography or surfing?
Hmm.. for me, surfing and photography are both equal passions, both of which I have been lucky enough to turn into a job. I guess 3 years ago, surfing was more of a predominant factor in my life and photography more of a sideline so you could say surfing came first. But spending time with others, surfing and checking out all the best places to ride allowed me to learn what I wanted to photograph and how. In the water as a kid it was all about surf, and lately it has become about enjoying the ride but also focusing while in the water on what would make a good shot, a good angle, and a great spot to photograph. I have the best of both worlds because I get to surf or simply just be in the water and take shots..
Tell us about your most dangerous experience while out there in the water.
Ahah, well… It was last year in Bingin (Bali), I was shooting all day long, the waves were super fun and getting bigger along the day. In the afternoon it was low tide and I decided to film my friends so I rented an oversized bodyboard and went in the water. After an hour or so, I realized I was having problems with my cameras so I had to go out of the water. I saw a set of good waves and I hurried to get the first one to get back to shore… I caught the wave on the rented bodyboard, camera in hand, and while I was lying down on my board to paddle I noticed the shallow reef surrounding me so I tried to dive over the wave. The bodyboard was oversized so the strength of the wave hit me like a ton of bricks and I slammed by back on the reef, ripped it open and was bleeding pretty bad. I think the worst moment was when I put lime juice on it to avoid infections, probably some of the worst pain I have ever put myself through!!
You have some amazing surf action photos. What kind of preparation do you do and how much effort does it take?
Thanks for the compliment. I don’t really prepare to be honest. I just keep fit swimming, surfing and going out on a bodyboard too so that I can be sure to be skilled and steady enough on it to shoot. Next season, my aim is to shoot images on bigger waves to further my experience and skills with the camera. I am starting to play waterpolo to gain strength and precision and free diving & apnea too, to help strengthen my breathing.
What type of gear do you use for your shots? and what settings do you use?
I have a variation of lenses and equipment. For portraiture I use my 70-200mm lens, for surfing action shots I like to use a 150-600mm lens and in the water my lens of choice is my 50mm lens which I love. I have two more lenses but these I use for landscape and lifestyle shots. For the settings it really depends on the shots I plan to take and the type of image I want out of it. But one thing I never do for sure, is use the auto-mode.
In your professional and artistic opinion, what makes a great surf photo?
Well, for me every photographer looks at himself and finds imperfections. It’s rare to look at one of your own shots and think that you couldn’t have done better, you always have something to say about it. But sometimes an imperfection is what can make a great shot, capturing the moment, a bit of ‘real’ in the photo, a bit of ‘abstract’ if you like. Pictures carry feelings and emotions which can touch people and so need to be alive and somewhat imperfect. The photo carries a mood, a personality, a character. If you can portray that through your images, then that makes a great photo, surf or other.
Do you travel a lot with your work ? Tell us your last experience !
To be a photographer you have to travel, you have to search for the perfect shots just as a surfer search for the perfect wave. It’s about finding the means to get to these places, which are often far and exotic but worth it! Fortunately in January I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii and shoot some good friends of mine: Augustin Arrivé and Théo, Christine and Ronan Juhel. A dream came true for me.
Do you only focus on surfing photography?
I’m fond of all kinds of pictures and settings. I take a lot of pleasure when I am in the water shooting as much as when shooting a model or a beautiful setting. Some photographers will tell you that you must focus on one element of photography like weddings, or surfing, fashion, portraits, lifestyle, events and so on… For those who have that mindset I guess I have to apologize as I love all photography. I think you can get so much out of being diversified in what you shoot, for your personal development and for your ‘eye’ as a photographer.
Any projects or trips coming soon ?
For now the plan is to stay shooting in France. I am lucky to live in a region with miles and miles of beautiful coastline and epic ever changing waves. And of course great surfers too! So, spring, summer and autumn here and when it starts to get cold back to Hawaii hopefully to carry on the adventure. Time to start working hard and saving to continue the dream, all while enjoying a bit of quiet time. Anyways, thanks for taking an interest in me and my work guys.
Such a great experience to share these words with Ben – Don’t hesitate to follow his work: