John Ogden’s impressive new book ‘Waterproof’ tells the history of surf photography in Australia and profiles around 50 of Australia’s most influential photographers. The cover of ‘Waterproof‘ features Hayden ‘Rich’ Richards who composed the shot with a little help from his wife, Fi. Below is the profile on Hayden, which appears in ‘Waterproof’, along with a couple of his hauntingly beautiful images. Hayden also tells the helter-skelter story behind the photo behind the cover.
HAYDEN ‘Rich’ RICHARDS (b.1975)
‘Rich’ Richards (aka SA_rips to his cult following on Instagram) wanders South Australia’s desert coast, revelling in its many moods. He is perhaps best known for combining landscapes and man-made objects with surf photography, capturing the astonishing drama, scale and rugged beauty of this isolated coastline, where desert ends in big cliffs that fall into a wild ocean prowled by apex predators.
What makes the ancient coast extremely severe and dangerous also makes it exceedingly beautiful. But capturing that beauty is not easy. Todd Adams tells how, “On his shoots he can be gone for days, with his dogs as support, looking for a perspective in the landscape that reveals something otherworldly. And capturing that perspective is no easy task. Whether he scales the cliff-studded coast or slips into the dark, bottomless ocean patrolled by Great Whites, a shot that comes from Rich’s camera encompasses significantly more danger than almost anyone else’s. The combination of stunning landscape, tangible danger, and raw photographic talent, produces the spectacular.“1
Rich got into surfing through his uncle who lived at Penong in the 80s. “I used to go and stay with him every school holiday in primary school and watch him surf. I loved it. He gave me an old Gravelle surfboard when I was 11,” Rich explains. He started taking photos seriously in 2014 following a serious surfing mishap, and is now a photographer unlike any. You won’t find him on advertising shoots, or covering events. “Rich is a purist, an artist … in the extreme”.2 His muse is the moody interzone where the Southern Ocean collides with the remote desert coast.
Sean Doherty spent some time with Rich in his hunting grounds, and wrote these lines: “He talks in clipped sentences with a contemplative breeze blowing between them. The desolate and ancient South Australian coast is his primary subject, even when a surfer stumbles into frame. There’s a distinct look to his work that’s hard to decode. His images are beautiful but also a little unsettling.”3
Rich is the Francis Bacon and David Lynch of surf photography, occasionally taking you to dark and uncomfortable places. His images are cinematic, “setting the isolation of his subjects against the vast expanse of the natural world.”4 Like a deep psychological thriller, they allow you to disappear into your own thoughts. Infused with mystery and suspense, they provide both pleasure and terror, drifting between dream and nightmare.
124 Todd Adams, Founder of SEAHOLM Watches
That shot as told by Rich
I had this image in my mind for sometime, but just had to find it. Finally, after a year or so on one of my adventures along the coastline I found the perfect ledge. The ledge was half way down the cliff poking out like a sore thumb, I watched for ages making sure the swell didn’t crash high enough and over it, she seemed relatively safe and definitely doable. I went home that night and planned to shoot next day.
We arrived next day to see the swell even bigger it jacked up to 6 meters. I set the ladder up 15 meters above to where I’ll stand, I climbed the ladder with camera and framed the ledge and set camera settings for my wife, all she has to do is climb the ladder, frame, point and shoot when I yell “yeahhhhh”.
All systems go, down I go , I get to the ledge and to be honest I was scared, it was Fuckin’ as crazy as it gets. No room for error, or instant death.
Here comes a huge chunk of swell approaching, I yell to Fi “you ready? Am I all in frame and ocean?” She screams back “yeah baby.”
The thing was insane I stood and prayed to god. I hope I don’t get swept off.
The water came up to my feet, a split second after that shot I’m turning around, leaping for higher ground, heart racing below I yell out to Fi ”holy fuck that was heavy”. – Hayden Richards.
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