There’s a huge possibility that if you follow surf media you’ve glanced over the work of photographer Sam Moody. As Stab’s go-to staffer, Sam was pretty much front row for the many projects they pulled together year after year. This means he had access to some of surfing’s best surfers as well as to some of the, shall we say, looser personalities of the bunch. Sam has become adept at capturing those personalities beyond just the surfer.
He recently made a career move and we thought we’d catch up on what makes the man tick and what’s next for him.
What Youth: You’ve been around the block a few times since we last spoke, so we thought with your recent career move that perhaps it was time we caught up again.
Where are you calling home base these days?
Sam Moody: Actually, I’m moving to Oxford in the UK. My fiance is in school there and I’ll get free rent. I’m not the biggest fan of California as rent costs are depressing there and I know I’d never get into Oxford for my academics so this is a cool opportunity.
WY: You’ve been what looked to be one of Stab’s main in-house lensmen. How and when did that come about?
SM: So in 2017 Ashton Goggans asked me to come shoot some party stuff for Jordy’s Stab in the Dark premiere. From then I really did a terrible job on a bunch of projects they put me on but I was still so honored to even be a part of it, like Dane’s Electric Acid will always be a standout trip for me. I mean I’m from the east coast and owned every pair of his signature Quik shorts, so I never expected to ever be on a trip with him. In 2019 when we did the Zambezi project Ashton and I were fighting a bunch and my job was kind of on the line so I pushed myself super hard with that movie mainly out of spite. Since then I started taking more of a directing role with Ashton and trying to learn more about proper storytelling, interviewing plot lines, and anything that goes into documentaries rather than just good surf clips.
WY: You recently made it known that you were moving on from that, and we assume that was amicable, what made you want to try something different?
SM: Haha yes it was very amicable and that’s what I really wanted. I wanted the Stab guys to know that this wasn’t anything because of their doing. To start, I’ve been having some personal stuff going on and I mean I don’t really have anyone in California. Actually, no one in my family lives west of the Mississippi so California was getting lonely and aggravating. Wayyyy too many people. In regards to the career side of things, I just want to try new things and learn new things. Surfing has been amazing and I will always love it but hell if I get a job offering to go document war, I’m going to hop on the flight the next day. Long story short, I just wanted to be closer to family and leave my life available for new experiences (Fuck that sounds super hippie, sorry about that).
WY: A lot of photographers today are struggling to make ends meet with pure surf work. Do you have non-surf related photographic work to help pay the bills?
SM: Yes hopefully, like I kind of just touched on, I’m super interested in that, and not for financial reasons. Working with Sam and Ashton really showed me what I’m interested in. When I started at Stab I only wanted to shoot surf porn stuff and I couldn’t have given two shits about storylines, portraits, people, documentaries, if it wasn’t a surf edit then I didn’t want to be a part of it. Thankfully Sam and Ashton kind of slapped me over the head and helped me realize I was a dumbass for thinking that way. So yeah, I’m really interested in working outside of surf but definitely staying within the documentary world, but I’m also open for whatever.
WY: The surf industry has become a very tight purse towards the buying of quality content these days, Is there simply too much content out there? Any thoughts?
SM: I know it’s not the best answer but I really have no idea where the surf industry is headed. I think everyone’s pretty confused, like for the past 5 years with Stab we were so focused on storytelling and making sure the audience was learning something or benefiting somehow from watching our films. Then Kolohe comes along with Reckless Isolation and stomps on everyone. All of a sudden people are remembering how important a classic surf movie is and they’re remembering why we all started doing this in the first place. So it’s a hard question because I think everyone’s confused. All I hope is that Vlogs will die, I’d rather have a big boom in Tik Tok than for people to continue making Vlogs.
WY: You’ve captured some absolutely iconic personality moments of some of the best surfers in the world. In many ways having given life to who those people when they were out of the water. What about those moments interests you?
SM: One of my biggest inspirations growing up was What Youth and the stuff Michael Cukr was doing. I remember whenever there would be a surf movie and I saw guys interacting out of the water I’d love that almost more than the surfing itself. I also want to try and show the audience how these guys are as humans. Some surfers don’t get a massive push exclusively from their talent just due to the nature of the surf world. Take guys like Shayden Paccaro for example, Shayden surfs so well and in the Hurley grand scheme of things I feel like he gets overlooked. So when I have a chance to meet Shayden and I learn who he is as a person, all I wanted to do is help him by showcasing who he actually is, not just what he surfs like. You never know, maybe doing a 10min profile on guys like that may really help their careers down the line. Hope that makes sense, I’m really trying my hardest with this whole writing thing.
WY: You covered the BLM thing pretty extensively – not taking sides unless you want to – but what were some of the things you saw during the height of the protests and have we seen anything positive come from some of those darkest days?
SM: Yeah I mean I’m cool to take a side but I don’t think it’s fair to take a side without extensively getting into it because I think just picking sides is what’s fucked up most about society right now. Anyways! The darkest thing I saw was someone yelling at the young female cop who literally just had her trainee badge on, like this woman is not part of the problem, but they were wishing death upon her kids and saying that they hoped she would die of cancer, obviously this is crossing a line. Yes, I think there are some super major problems within the general policing in the US but it goes way deeper than just that, its poor training, corrupt judicial systems, privatized prisons, archaic policies (the war on drugs for example), I mean the list goes on and on. Of course a majority of cops are great people and of course there’s going to be some dickheads that make everyone’s lives harder. We just have to start focusing on making sure there’s less bad eggs and making sure cops have the proper training and accommodations to make their jobs easier and safer. I know most people get uncomfortable with these topics but having open discussions is how we will start solving problems.
WY: Well said. Thanks for that.
Shifting gears a bit, what inspired you to get into surf photography?
SM: That’s a pretty easy one, Surfing haha. I feel like the only reason any of us get into the surf world is because we genuinely love surfing and none of us would do too well in your typical corporate environment. Ashton would always say that I hated surfing but that’s not fair. Yes sometimes I get frustrated and burnt out but when I really get to surf and have fun, you see a smile on my face that is pretty rare.
WY: Any legendary surf photographers who got your attention as a young shooter?
SM: I guess I’m pretty young but I always watched Kai Neville, Riley Blakeway, and Joe G’s stuff. I know those guys are all still relevant but when they were blowing up I was still like 13 or whatever. So I think all of the Taylor Steele stuff was alittle old for me when I was a teenager surfing and watching edits.
WY: You’ve traveled pretty extensively, anywhere still on Sam Moody’s bucket list?
SM: Everywhere on my bucket list isn’t necessarily tied to surfing, I think the top 3 would be driving across Russia, Thailand, and probably doing stuff within the north Middle East. Like I said, I want to really get myself into some shit.
WY: Things have changed so much in the last 15-20 years in terms of digital photography, computer post-production abilities, etc., do you ever just roll some film old school style?
SM: Oh I shoot film so much, I mean that’s how I started and it’s what keeps me from getting burned out. I’ve got 15 rolls of 6×9 sitting beside my computer waiting to get developed. I’m still trying to get better at 16mm but I just got a roll back that I shot during Noa Deane’s Electric Acid. When I first got the film back I was like dancing around my house because I was so happy that I correctly exposed the film.
WY: What does the next 12 months look like for Sam Moody?
SM: No clue whatsoever. I’m really just rolling with the punches, heading to the UK at the end of this week, doing freelance, supporting Leonie with her school stuff, continuing working on my health stuff since I’ve got CF and a bunch of lung bullshit, and I mean I’m really just keeping myself open for whatever comes my way.
WY: Sounds good. Thanks for your time, take care of yourself and safe travels
Follow Sam at @clubmedsucks