My name is Diogo d’Orey, I’m 36 years old and I am a member of the almost extinct breed of water photographers. But I refuse to die, just like a terminally ill patient that loves life too much. It’s no news that surf photography is dying. Magazines are shutting down one after the other, social media made our world so accessible that having the opportunity to see people shred in the most unbelievable places across the world is not a novelty anymore. Shooting in the water became so easy and affordable, something we couldn’t have imagined happening a few decades ago. There were just a few of us in a huge market back then. It’s funny how the tables have turned, now our industry has its own celebrities and their own paparazzis. I don’t say this to offend anyone, but seeing any semi-famous surfer immediately surrounded by dozens of cameramen reminds me only of that.
Doing the one thing that I do best, and that is to push my limits, face my fears.
With cheaper cameras and GoPro footage populating social media, there are more and more people trying to “live the dream.” It’s ironic how all of this is happening while the demand for water photography is shrinking. So why do we do it? Why are we investing our time, money and health into something that is so rapidly becoming worthless? Something that has no future? I can’t say for everyone, but in my case it’s all about having a purpose in life. Doing the one thing that I do best; and that is to push my limits, face my fears. But most importantly, to feel like that young boy from Rio, who used to spend all his time surfing while his classmates were playing football.
But most importantly, to feel like that young boy from Rio, who used to spend all his time surfing while his classmates were playing football.
I can’t say for everyone, but in my case it’s all about having a purpose in life. Doing the one thing that I do best, and that is to push my limits, face my fears. But most importantly, to feel like that young boy from Rio, who used to spend all his time surfing while his classmates were playing football.
So what can we do in order not to become extinct? We turn into Jacks of all trades: combining photography with video and drones, doing rounds across the globe to try and offer our work to the few websites out there, selling prints, promoting Instagrams, and working on surf charters or resorts. Everything we can to make ends meet, and not give up on this lifestyle, which for many seems like easy living.
As someone who is considered to be a member of the champions league of water photography, it’s hard for me to start from zero and adapt to this new world order, in which video is king and your social media following dictates whether you get bookings. I’ve had to let go of my ego and learn new things in order to stay relevant. But amidst this quest to find internet fame, sponsors and advertising contracts, I’ve made a promise to stay true to myself and not lose my identity. In order to do that, I’ve developed a set of rules which I’d like to share with the world:
1.) You’re only as good as the people you choose to shoot. That’s why I only work with those who I admire and respect.
2.) In the days of car park syndrome, where everyone goes to the same popular location, always drive a little more and find your own wave that is as good or even better than the famous spots.
3.) Staying in your comfort zone will always get you an average shot. Constantly push yourself to try and find new amazing angles, even if they sometimes come at the cost of your safety.
4.) Only work for those who value your talent and time. Always make sure that after all your financial, physical and emotional investment, you’re getting what you deserve. And by that I don’t mean social media exposure. And if you’re not, just say “no thank you” and go find another place to work.
5.) Never stop learning. There might come angles, technology or trends that don’t speak to you, but always make sure you try them all before calling quits.
6.) Having a positive role model in the surf community is extremely important. It influences your motivation, confidence and most importantly your lifestyle. My biggest inspiration as a friend, family man and photographer is Russell Ord. Make sure you check out his work on Instagram at @russellordphoto.
7.) Support your fellow lensmen. Get inspired, but never copy, spread the word, not hate, be generous but don’t let people use you and be a role model but never grow an ego.
The crazy ones who gave up their lives to be close to what they truly love, even if it sometimes smashes us hard or drags us through the water.
I’m not the one who knows the expiration date on water photography, but I can only advise us to have fun while we can and enjoy every moment. And while we’re at it, try and get a few new tricks up our sleeves. Just so we can stay afloat and keep surprising our audience with something new every time. Who knows, maybe in this crazy new world of Instagram TV we’ll have to adapt to shooting vertical videos soon? And while we struggle to find our place in this crazy industry, I want to give a shoutout to those of us who give our lives to the ocean, day-by-day, through good or bad. The crazy ones who gave up their lives to be close to what they truly love, even if it sometimes smashes us hard or drags us through the water. And this praise is not only to water photographers, but to everyone working in surf shacks and on boats. And not because it earns them a living, but because that’s what makes us all the happiest people on this planet.