Although Chris Peel has been around for a while, more and more of his stuff was beginning to find it’s way over to What Youth. The man definitely has talent and a very unique eye. His subject matter is as diverse as his travel itinerary and his list of frequent shooting locations is mind-boggling. We can’t imagine the frequent flyer miles this guy is backloading.
We became intrigued with just what “Peely” has going on these days so we sent off a few questions and he sent us a few photos. Please enjoy both below. – What Youth
What Youth: Where are you originally from?
Chris Peel: I was born on the Sunshine Coast and at the age of four we moved to Byron Bay, and I have called that home since.
You have three phone numbers from three different countries! Where do you currently reside?
I guess I spend most of my time onboard The PNG Explorer in Papua New Guinea, which is about five and a half months of the year. The rest of the year depends on what I am shooting. If I am on a break from the boat I could be in Hokkaido, Japan shooting snow sports. Part of my family lives in Niseko at the moment and I have had a long connection to the snow culture there. Sometimes I even head up there to the river mouths in the Northern Hemi in autumn if the sand is right. Southern Hemi winter it’s hard not to try and do something in Indonesia as I have a pretty, connection with a couple of different families there and I love the Bukit. US, Taiwan, and Canada can all get a start too. Right now, I am on Vancouver Island for a bit. So I don’t really reside anywhere at the moment. I have a bunch of surfboards in a storage shed and mail at my Mum’s place in Byron, if that counts, haha.
How did you get into photography?
I would have to say my Dad definitely lit the spark on it. He is a surf photographer so I was around it quite a bit. I was shooting from a really young age as well as all the equipment was there to use. I got to use film a bit so that whole process of exposing the frames and then sending it to the lab, or processing it in hand tanks at home. Right through to looking at the chromes or negs on a lightbox sort of drew me in and that’s what made me continue with it. Once I was able to use a camera as a tool, I realized I could get the opportunity to travel to places and waves that at the time would have been impossible otherwise. These days, the lab is a laptop and all you need is a camera. A computer and a connection to the net is a way to earn a living; traveling with it was a logical thing.
We’ve seen some of the outstanding surf photos, what else do you enjoy shooting?
I enjoy shooting anything and anywhere that other photographers are not. If that means deep in the mountain ranges of Hokkaido or the untouched islands of PNG, I have a goal to create something that tells a story people haven’t heard. So if I can do that I’m usually pretty stoked. My favorite subject would have to be empty line ups, those days you’re like, ‘holy shit look at these freaking waves and no one is around’, I love that. As a surfer it’s good to know that whole discovery thing is still out there for our generation.
How did you get hooked up with Sepp Bruwiler and the Pacific Northwest scene?
I finished up this one season in PNG and got offered a trip to go to Indonesia to shoot that huge swell a few years back. I think everyone was going to Nias. Anyway, I spoke to a few crew and saw that everyone was going so I thought about it for a night and then just said ‘bugger it’, I’m going to go somewhere with no one. I researched some cold water spots and Canada looked epic. Not new, but still not as worn out as other surf destinations. My buddy Shreddy B (Teddy Navarro) gave me Sepp’s contact and said ‘he’s the guy.’ I reached out to Sepp and then Sepp did what Sepp does, and took me on some of the craziest adventures I have ever had. I’ve only met a few people who are down to try any idea you come up with no matter how crazy it is and he’s one. Usually, Sepp’s input just makes it definitely gnarlier. After that trip, I think I was left just wanting more. I guess that’s why I have been coming back here every year since.
Any future travel plans?
For now just Indonesia and North America. The Pacific is obviously where all the discovery is waiting, so I am really into the whole Melanesian area and my work on the PNG Explorer is all about that. There is some talk of a trip to the southernmost tip of South America… I guess I will just go with the flow and keep focused on trying to get better at what I do with a camera.