Transport yourself to Southern Sri Lanka with our latest ebook! Download it now for free.

Behind the Lens—Tim Kothlow

It was only natural that Tim Kothlow would find his way into a career in photography. Working with members of the Women’s World Tour—Tim’s portfolio is filled with beautifully orchestrated photos both in and out of the water. I spent some time talking to him to see what the driving force is behind his desire for photography.

First of all, tell me a bit about yourself? (e.g. where you’re from, kind of person)

I grew up in Riverside, California with a family of six. I have two loving parents, an older brother, twin sister and a younger sister. Riverside is about two hours south of Los Angeles and about an hour inland from the coast. The area itself is pretty similar to the desert; dry all year round and it gets extremely hot in the summer months. Growing up, I would spend the school months in Riverside and during the summer months I would be at a family house in Laguna Beach. Laguna is a little surfy, art-filled kind of beach town which seemed like paradise compared to Riverside. Being away from the beach for months on end would cause me to appreciate it that much more when I got the chance to go. It’s where my love for the ocean started.

Why/When did you get into photography?

I originally got into photography towards the end of grade school/beginning of high school. I would use my parent’s camera to shoot my sibling’s sporting events or some events at school. I would also steal the camera from my uncles whenever we would be on a camping trip somewhere. My younger sister and I were subscribed to Surfer Magazine and at the time, I was also subscribed to Transworld Surf. Of course, looking through all of the photos of the pro surfers and the trips that they were on was my favourite part of the magazines. However, the idea of being the person who got to take those photos stuck in my mind for a while. In my later years of high school, my guidance counsellor (Mrs. Miller) wanted me to try out a new class that was offered at school called Digital Imaging. The class would spend a semester on Adobe Illustrator and then another semester on Adobe Photoshop. It turned out that I loved the class so much that the instructor opened up a new class for myself and another guy for our senior year. Senior year, I decided to join the photo club on campus and that is when I found out that I actually had some skill with a camera. The club would hold anonymous critiques of everyone’s photos and when my photos came up, I would never get any negative critiques, just positive comments with the occasional “oohs and ahs” and it felt really great to have that kind of reassurance.

The internship with Surfer gave me not only more skill and knowledge in the industry, but it also gave me the confidence to go after what I wanted.

I went into university studying Communications and joined the competitive swim team. After a year of speech class and other courses like that (I wasn’t a huge fan of public speaking), I decided to take the leap and changed my major to Graphic Design and concentrated in both photography and video and added on a Marketing minor. From there, I just decided to go for it and kept plugging away at all things photo and slowly joined it with surf. I quit the university swim team after two years and joined the publications staff. I learned all I could in the editorial world and used it to land a photo internship with Surfer Magazine my senior year. The internship with Surfer gave me not only more skill and knowledge in the industry, but it also gave me the confidence to go after what I wanted. Since then, I have found myself working with many athletes on the WSL Women’s Championship Tour and Qualifying Series which has led to numerous trips to Hawaii and most recently a trip out to Australia. Many of the athletes I work with are now great friends and that is something high school/college me could have never imagined. To this day, I still pinch myself thinking about who I get to work with. It’s unreal.

Is there anyone or anything that inspires you in your work?

People like Todd Glaser, Corey Wilson, Fran Miller, Cait Miers, Morgan Maassen and Ming Nomchong are a few photographers that inspire me and my work. Each of them has their own specialization that I really love. Todd and Corey can tell incredible stories with their cameras, while Fran and Ming know how to set the scene and create beautiful art out of a scenario so simple. I love Morgan’s work because his style is so different and draws in everyone that looks at it.

Other inspirations for me are actually the people I am shooting. Whenever I am shooting for an athlete, whether they are having a great day or a bad day, I try to take that and tell their story the best I can. Posing is always going to be involved with taking photos, but I try not to pose as much as I can. I let whoever I am shooting know kind of what I would like to capture or I don’t say anything at all and I just capture whatever they naturally portray.

Why did you want to get involved with NV?

I originally saw Nouvelle Vague when I saw a feature done with Fran Miller. I checked out the website and read the ‘About’ page and it stuck with me. The magazine recognizes surfing as more than just a sport, but as an art form of riding a wave, an endless chase for something that may never come or for something that will be remembered for the rest of our lives. The magazine portrays stories and conversations that are relatable and leaves an at home feeling.

Website / Instagram

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. 

Make sure to sign up to our newsletter to be the first one to see Tim’s work in our magazine!

More Stories
Tony Butt: Oceanographer, Patagonia ambassador, surfer of mammoth-sized waves.