Víctor González García has always loved the ocean. He’s made a profession of surf photography, with his longest project taking him to twenty-two countries over ten years. He’s documented surf culture in the sport’s most remote destinations, and is now sharing the results of his exploration in a new photobook, Más Que Mar or More Than Sea.
Emily von Hoffmann: How did you first become interested in documenting surfing cultures of the world?
Víctor González García: I’ve liked the sea and its waves since I was a child, so when I began exploring photography I immediately wanted to be a surf photographer. Soon I began to work by collaborating with magazines, taking photos and doing articles around the world.
But I also love traveling and I like documentary and travel photography, so on those travels I didn’t just want to see the beaches and the waves. I wanted to know all I could; cultures, landscapes, people… and photograph everything, of course. It was when I began to think about this project, MÁS QUE MAR. A photography book about my trips but which shows not just waves and surfing. I wanted to show all I knew in those trips. The first photos of this book were taken in France, but the idea of the project was born over several years.
EvH: This photobook comprises the work performed over ten years in many countries, including Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Peru, United states, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Spain, Ireland, Norway, France, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Philippines and India. Did you have its vast scope in mind when you began the project, or did that come later?
VGG: It was later when I began to think about doing a book with the best photos from those travels. Over the years, I decided the book had to be real, but with the big economic crisis was very difficult go ahead with the project, so I did an itinerant exhibition with the same spirit. The exhibition was good but in my head I still had the idea of the book. Then I found Kickstarter and I thought it would be a good way to finance part of the production costs and I started working on it.
EvH: You wrote in your Kickstarter that you are more interested in the process of making it than in its destination. So how has the project affected you, or what have you learned?
VGG: The goal of most of those travels was finding good waves, so we spent a lot of time on beaches and searching for those good waves. In a lot of travels people are looking for something concrete; this beautiful landscape that you see in an image, an exotic temple you always wanted to see, etc. I think this is a great part of traveling, but at the end the best part of the trip is what you go through to get there.
That is MÁS QUE MAR, a photographic tour around the trip itself and not just about the objective, in my case the waves. It is for that reason that in my book you can find nice lineups — photos of a landscape with a perfect wave being part of the composition — but also photos of people, landscapes and cultures, photos which try to tell stories and bring you to the place and the moment where they were taken.
Each trip can affect you in different ways but I think you can always learn in each one. I think traveling is one of the best things you can do to get experiences and learn about people and the world.
EvH: Can you tell us about some of the people or interactions that stand out most in your mind from your travels? What makes these characters or moments so affecting?
VGG: I think the best way to know a place is to not research so much ahead of time and just get lost around that place instead. It is then when I have found many of my great experiences traveling, without expectations and just getting lost. In ten years I have got too many faces and conversations in my mind, it’s one of the great things of traveling.
EvH: If you could go anywhere in the world for a shoot, where would that be, and what might that project center on? What’s left on your creative wishlist?
VGG: There are many places where I want to go. From Iran to Greenland, around Africa, Nepal and Tibet, Moldavia and Belarus… many places, hundreds of places. Each place has its essence and I just want to try to discover a bit of those places. Maybe in some of those countries I would like to see and photograph something in particular that I know exists and is interesting to me, but I don’t currently have a decided project about each place.
EvH: Can you please describe one or two of your favorite images from the project, and the situation surrounding them?
VGG: Actually I don’t have a favorite image, but many of the photos of the book are some of the best that I have taken. I like this one of Thailand [above] because it took me 30 minutes to get it. The girl was playing in the waterfall jumping to the water and I needed her to be quiet for a second to take the photo. Besides, I didn’t have tripod, so I was standing on a rock in a very difficult position. But the worst part was that I didn’t want to disturb the girl, so she when she noticed me, I looked at the tree I had in front of me so she thought I was taking pictures of it. It was funny and I like the results.
Another image that I like a lot is the cover photo [top]. It was in an a island of Fiji where local people live, that usually works in other islands where the luxury resorts are. The contrast between those islands is really big; luxury pools, rooms with jacuzzi and big golf courses in front of very poor islands where the workers of those resorts live. On that poor island the kids take advantage of the low tide to play along the beach with the things the sea brings to their island, usually trash from the resorts. This kid was playing with a broken golf stick that probably some rich guy had thrown in the water.
EvH: Who or what are some creative inspirations (in any medium) that give you joy right now?
VGG: There are a lot of good photographers right now, much talent out there. I follow many of them, from such famous photographers as Steve McCurry to lesser known individuals like Renato D’Agostin. I love travel photography but also photojournalism, documentary photography even fashion, so I enjoy all those kinds of photographers and I try to find the best in their respective fields.