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Behind the Lens—Maxime Samson

Originally from Quebec, Maxime didn’t taste the freedom of surfing until his early twenties when a girl he knew asked him to go to Hawaii for a backpack trip. His first thought was that it was an opportunity hard to refuse so he immediately accepted the offer. What started as a destination he wasn’t too convinced of, quickly ended by a day at the beach with a few friends and surfboards, where everything suddenly changed for him. As many of us, not born near the sea know, his first surf session was enough of a disaster to give up surfing. But the magical feeling you get once at the beach, surrounded by powerful waves and a surprising peacefulness, is hard not to fall in love with.  

This feeling he felt while being in Hawaii followed him back to Quebec and pushed him to quit his job, pack everything and start a new adventure on the West Coast of Canada. Since then, we can find Maxime in Tofino during the summer/fall time and follow him in a new country every year for winter. An unexpected adventure quickly became a lifestyle and it was only a matter of time until photography found him.

We’ve asked Maxime a few questions about his work and adventures in hope of understanding his photographic style.

What makes surfing so appealing to a photographer’s eyes?

Just the ocean itself is so attractive to watch. It can change so quickly and is always different. When shooting, there are just so many options of angles, layers, lights and style to capture. When you add a surfer to it, the possibilities are endless because of the surfer’s style, his tricks, his experience … it goes on and on. Surfing is a sport with an old history and there is a lot to learn because every surfer’s got a different approach to the sport, which I find beautiful.

Is there a specific feeling you’re trying to convey within your photos?

A lot of people can’t just leave everything behind and start travelling like I did. That’s the main reason why I started taking pictures, because I wanted to share with my family and friends what I was living while I knew they won’t or couldn’t do like me. So for me, if I can give people a feeling of travelling or the satisfaction of surfing, that’s a mission accomplished. I want people to look at my pictures and feel not only the place but the culture, weather, people and everything that comes on a surf trip.

When it comes to surfing, each surf spot has got a different vibe and energy, good or bad depending of the waves, of the people around it and of the history of the spot. Trying to represent that in a picture is a pretty good challenge.

Wildest travel story so far?

In Sri Lanka, my friend and I bought bicycles to explore the whole south coast with. We bought the best bike you could find in Sri Lanka which you can compare to the cheapest bike at Walmart.

After a week of showing off our new bikes in the streets of Hikkaduwa, the event we were expecting happened: one of us crashed and that was him. Nothing really important but a lot of scratches on his legs and arms. Like any good wound in Sri Lanka, it got infected pretty badly and he had to be hospitalized for four days at the public hospital of Galle. But the hospital itself is the wildest part of the story. The waiting line system is not really established in Sri Lanka so the one that speaks the loudest and manages to push people to get to the front wins the right to see a doctor. After that, when you walk in the hallway of this hospital, don’t be surprised to cross a stray dog or a guy with his arm cut in half walking by himself and be careful to not step on blood while you’re barefoot because yes, shoes are not allowed in this hospital, even the doctor is walking barefoot. If you got a bed while you are hospitalized then you are pretty lucky as half of the patients sleep on a table, chair or stay on the floor. In the good old squat toilet, you can’t find either toilet paper or water to rinse your hands so you need to figure that out.

After all, this adventure ended up well and Sri Lanka is an amazing place, but just make sure not to hurt yourself while you’re there.

Where can we expect to see you next—any goals for your photography?  

I’ll just keep doing what I like to do and take photos of it the way I like it. I’ve always been more attracted by video than photo. I just never really put the time and effort to start filming proper surf videos so that’s probably going to be a future project.

Why have you decided to become involved with Nouvelle Vague?

I liked the idea of a surf magazine that comes from Montreal with artists from everywhere. It’s a good representation of the surf culture from Quebec, where you can’t find real waves but where people are still as passionate about surfing and travelling, with the hope of discovering what the surf culture is all about.


This interview is part of our series “The Digital Return” – a series of articles that present each contributor of our soon to be released digital magazine. 

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