Photos by Nick Green unless otherwise noted
It’s a funny thing to start an interview talking about a stain on your anus and moments later be discussing what it’s like to deal with crippling depression, but life is fucked up like that and all the better for it.
I’ve known of Nick Green for a while, primarily through his surf photography, but we’ve never met face to face. The twenty-three-year-old from Blackmans Bay, Tassie was one of those photographers that got real good real fast, so it was no surprise to see the best freesurfers in the world turning up in his feed while scrolling through the avocado breakfasts and ducky lips on the ‘gram. Nick’s work is sparse but also simmering with an underlying energy that packs plenty of punch, and there’s an emotional intelligence in every composition that defies his age. In recent years, he’s teamed up with good pal and renaissance man Dion Agius to create a unique and moody portrait of the island they love, via a surf/art/music/publishing event the lads are calling Dark Hollow.
Nick, it’s Vaughan Dead from Monster Children, the magazine with heaps of dick, fart and balls jokes in it. How are you?
Haha. I’m good, mate. How are you?
I’m ok. This morning my wife told me I have a gross stain at the top of my butt crack that looks like smeared poo. She actually asked if I wipe my bum properly. That was a bit of a rattle-fest. How about you, you good? What are you up to?
I’m just cruising today. Sitting in the sun doing nothing. I’m actually in the backyard of the old family home soaking up some rays.
Fuck. Life in Tassie sounds glorious! So, tell me, when did you first feel the sweet thrill of locking away precious moments of time inside a little picture box?
I got into photography pretty naturally, mostly through my appreciation of Tassie and love of surfing. I found photography to be a great way to get out and do stuff, too. Tassie can be super quiet, it’s not like you’re in a city and there’s always something on; but then when you’re going camping and chasing waves and getting out and about, you quickly realise there is always stuff happening out there. You can either sit around doing nothing or you can jump in the van and visit new places and do cool things. At first, photography was a way to document these little adventures, but then later I was able to take things further by exploring the landscapes and elements and people in a more personal way. Tell the story of the place I love with a little more creativity.
How did you discover photography?
Well, I only really started surfing during high school. I didn’t really grow up with a family that spent time at the beach; I kind of naturally found it through friends I was knocking around with. Looking back, I think the start of it all stemmed from being at the beach. Towards the end of school, I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis. I fell into a pretty deep depression and that really rattled me. Photography helped me to become more present with my thoughts and I think I may have become a little bit obsessed by it, constantly wanting to improve. Depression, anxiety, OCD, all that shit, they suck, but at the end of the day most people go through them in some way or another, and it’s how you choose to make them work in your favour. That stuff is still very present in my life and it probably will be for good, but I’m on top of it now. Understanding depression and dealing with mental health will always be a thing in my life.
How has having a creative outlet helped you with healing from an experience like that, and how has it served you during other dark times?
I’m not very good at explaining it, but I think it’s there in my photos, how I’m feeling. It helps me express myself when I can’t really articulate things. Even from a young age there were some images I’d capture that would resonate with me a lot more than others based purely on emotion, but in those days, I was pretty heavily influenced by other people in terms of how I presented myself; wanting to be liked was important because it made me feel better about myself. That’s how my mind was at that time, I was shooting things not necessarily for the right reasons but because I thought that that was what people wanted to see. Then, after a while, I was over it. I thought, ‘Fuck that. From now on I’m gonna shoot things how I want them to look.’ And in the past couple of years, I’ve felt far more honest about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m much more satisfied and happier with the photos I’m taking and that’s an incredibly healthy feeling.
What lead you into van life after school?
I never wanted a desk job. After everything that happened when I was younger, my perspective changed and I became much more about wanting to do good shit and see good stuff and enjoy life, and I found that when I was on the road that’s when I was happiest and passionate and things came naturally… especially photography. I’d wake up for sunrise, surf and shoot and it seemed natural and right. The only reason I kept at photography was because it felt so good. I’ve given up the van life for a while now though, still hitting the road whenever I can but living with a group of mates, which is super fun.
Were you submitting photos to magazines and stuff?
Yeah I was, and every now and then I’d get a little paycheck from having a photo run, but I was also looking after a kid with autism for five years which was an amazing experience for a couple of reasons; but as far as the photography was concerned, it meant that I didn’t have to turn it into a job as such, I got to keep it fun.
Let’s talk about your friendship with Dion Agius. A few years ago, he decided to pull stumps on his home base in Byron and move back down to Tassie. How did you guys first get together?
I was cruising in my van up around Scamander where his land is. I didn’t really know who he was. One of my buddies said he was back down in Tassie and I ended up linking up with him for a couple of days, and we had some surfs and took some photos and got along pretty well; after that we just kept in touch. I think we’ve got similar values when it comes to the things we love about surfing and photography, and Tassie in particular.
Dion is an absolute weapon when it comes to getting shit done. That must have had a huge impact on the way you approached your own work.
For sure. There is a lot of really good surfers in Tasmania, really good, but Dion has an endless enthusiasm to create. When you check the surf with Dion, even if it’s absolute shit, he’ll be standing there mapping it all out. ‘Imagine this place in afternoon light with a little cross shore and that backdrop!’ He’s imagining the whole scene on its best day and, sure enough, a month or two later he’ll see the conditions and know it’s on, and we’ll go there and get the exact shot. He’s really fun to work with and he loves Tassie. And Tassie is my favourite place in the world, so that helps too.
How did Dark Hollow come together?
We were shooting all this stuff, and we didn’t want to send off bits and pieces to the media and dilute it into nothing. We wanted to showcase the beauty of Tassie as an ongoing project, something you could sink yourself into. We ran an event this year that was like the first big production of it all, with music, photography, light installations and the zine release up at Dion’s place, which is the most amazing piece of land. And we’re looking to do another one in summer. We think the next event will be January 5th. We’ve got Falls (Festival) here at New Year’s, so hopefully everyone won’t be too washed up. We had the last event the day after the Triple J One Night Stand and there was a few of the crew who couldn’t hack it because they’d had too big of a night. I was in the jacuzzi for five hours at the end of it.
As well as being a freakish surfer, Dion’s a great photographer, too. What do you like about the way he works?
I’ve found he shoots a lot of stuff on his phone. He might not shoot much with an actual camera, but he’s always switched on, which has definitely opened my eyes to being more observant to things. He’s always aware and in the moment, and that has taught me that you don’t have to pick up a camera and say, ‘Today is the day I will go to shoot something amazing.’ It’s more like if you have your camera with you and you’re always ready–and that’s when you might get something incredible out of nowhere. It’s especially true down in Tassie where everything can change so quickly. You can get up in the morning and it’s dark and raining, and then five minutes later it’s sunny and there’s an opportunity to get a great photo every second.
When I look at your work, I get a sense of the isolation of Tasmania and of the people down there too. You have a wonderful awareness of space, but then there’s a lot of energy there as well. There’s an underlying tension, and I think that comes from the severe contrast between dark and light that you use.
I’ve never sat down and thought ‘This is what I’m aiming to achieve,’ but I think subliminally it is an expression of how I feel. It’s hard because I do have darkness in my past, there’s stuff that’s happened and things that will continue to happen, and I guess that comes out in my work a bit; but as corny and cheesy as it sounds, it’s like I’m trying to find some kind of beauty in the darkness. A black and white wave that’s really raw can look overwhelming and scary, and that’s just like the black dog—it’s there, but it can also be beautiful to some people as well.
And what about the zines? Fuck yeah to making zines!
That was something I really wanted to do. I never went to uni, so I didn’t really know what the fuck I was doing when it came to putting it together, but it was so much fun playing around with it. I’d love to do more print stuff. To actually see your photos and hold them in your hands is unreal. So much effort goes into making magazines, man. I can’t believe you guys do it all the time. The coolest thing is we ended up sending the zine all over the world to, like, twelve different countries. It blew my mind to know that people on the other side of the planet were interested in something we had made.