Head Above Water is a body of photographic work by local artist Ben Bugden. It aims to document his relationship with the ocean as not only a lifelong companion, but also as a place of healing and reflection.
“Being born and raised in Byron, the ocean and the lifestyle surrounding it have been pivotal in shaping me as a person. In my imagery I want to capture a tactile, emotional and textural representation of my relationship with it.
As a surfer the ocean has always been my place of recreation, but it is also much more than that. For me it is my place to escape, reset and relax when anxiety, stress or grief visit.
Floating alone out there. Free. Silent. Just a head above water. It brings me a sense of peace and calm like no other. I’d love it if people are able to connect with that through my work and feel it too. For me, creating these images is as much a form of self-administered therapy as it is photography.”
Watch the ocean for long enough and you’ll realise it’s a place that has as many complex nuances and moods as humans do. Darkness, light, peacefulness and rage, and within each there is beauty to be found.
Lucky enough to be born and bred in Byron Bay – back when it was still possible to surf The Pass with a handful of friends and the road to Tallows was dirt.
Throughout Ben’s life the ocean and the lifestyle surrounding it have been pivotal in shaping him as a person and a photographer.
“This rings true in even my earliest memories. Sitting on the beach with Mum eating apricots; the shimmering surface and cool relief of the water the first time I stepped in; lying in the rain curled up in Dad’s board-bag under Pandanus Palms waiting for him to come in from the surf; the invigorating kiss of water droplets on a hot day; the feeling of a stressful day melting away with the embrace of the ocean.”
Ben holds degrees in both Graphic Design and Photoimaging. He currently shoots, writes and works as deputy editor for Tracks Magazine, and is also a creative guide for Vagabond Photographic.
Ben lives and works in Byron Bay, Australia.