Tim Nunn has been interested in cold-water surfing for the about 15 years now, but he spent the past six traveling through Canada, Scotland, Norway and Iceland with surfers Ian Bettrick and Timmy Turner, taking massive amounts of pictures with little to no money.
From a catalog of about 40,000 shots, Tim and his team narrowed it down to 400 and put together Numb, a 208-page photo book exploring the intimate details of this underdeveloped niche of surf culture.
Step 1: Team up
Choose a constant companion who can add a different edge to the project. You want a guy/gal who is amped to surf, will paddle out when it’s one foot and crappy but doesn’t mind stroking out alone to a dredging reef, should you come across it. I traveled with Ian Battrick. He is known for not spending any money, loves to sleep rough but always manages to make friends with the most interesting characters, whether that is in the sea or at the local bar.
Step 2: Embrace every character you meet – you never know where it will lead
We met Timmy Turner by chance, as he has the same shaper, Jeff ‘Doc’ Lausch, as Ian. Even though we live on the other side of the world, Timmy ended up becoming a pivotal part of the whole project. He came to Iceland and Scotland but also introduced us to his friends in Canada, which opened a door to a wilderness I never thought I’d get to see. It isn’t just about pro surfers, though. In Scotland, Chris Noble, an offshore oil rig worker, was a legend. Without him, Ian would never have gotten the cover shot. Likewise, my favourite shot in the book is of electrician Chris Clarke, on a board he shaped on his kitchen table. You never know who will lead you where.
Step 3: Build a little bit of hype as you go
It may not come naturally, but with modern social media, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, you can get people stoked on your project earlier. I know it’s probably the worst thing and the last thing you want to think about, but at the end of this you’ve got to be able to sell this thing. People will want to hear your tales, so share early.
Step 4: Take every opportunity that comes your way
Yeah, sure, planning is good, but it’s the unexpected offer of going somewhere you hadn’t thought of going which will inevitably produce some golden moments.
Step 5: Shoot everything with everything
Always have a camera ready to roll and use film. Digital SLRs are great, but bring an old film camera and watch how people relax as you scratch around manual focusing with a lump of old iron. Less threatening and less instant, it makes for a way more relaxed situation that I guarantee will produce some gold.
Step 6: Find a calm, well organized and understanding designer
You will push this person to the limit, changing shots and text right up to the 11th hour, so they have to have a certain temperament.
Step 7: Get an army of proofreaders
It may be predominantly photographs, but the words are as important.
Step 8: Find a local printer
Yeah, sure, you can go for the cheap option of heading to China, but it won’t be the same service or control over the end product. Find the right production manager locally, and you’ll get the paper you want, sourced from a sustainable stock of wood and printed in front of your own eyes so you can tweak the book right up to the last minute. It may result in the bill being a little larger than heading to Asia, but what you may lose in dollars, you’ll make up for in quality and the experience of working closely with a true artisan.
Step 9: Breathe a huge sigh of relief when you have that first copy in your hands
Then realize the hard work starts now.
Step 10: Arrange exhibitions along with some slide shows and talks
There is nothing like getting to speak to people face-to-face about the adventures you’ve been on, so get in touch with surf shops, galleries and cafés. Arrange evenings so people can come along, talk story and see the photographs in all their glory.