For photographer Keith Hamlyn, the ocean is a necessity of life. That’s the approach he’s taken to bring together the I Sea U exhibition, a portrait photography series three years in the making. You don’t have to look far to recognise a passion for the sea in each portrait. From surfers to sisters, couples to expectant mothers—the water seems like their natural environment. It’s like watching an Attenborough doco, and that’s just the teaser. We’re super keen for opening night in Noosaville on November 21.
The series reflects Hamlyn’s own relationship with the ocean, which seems almost too primal to articulate. “To be honest, I don’t know how to explain it,” he says. “It brings me back to myself. The series is like that for me. That’s what I’m trying to find, I guess, in the photos of people: that place that you go to when you first dive in the water and everything just disappears, and you feel like you’re starting afresh.”
Hamlyn has shot about 40 portraits for the project, mostly of friends. “It’s something you can’t really shoot quickly because it’s dependent on the weather,” he says. “You might get the perfect weather, but then trying to arrange to have a person to take a photograph in that window of light in the afternoon is quite challenging. I’ve shot about 40 people now, but getting that together is never easy.”
The project has been just one ball in busy Hamlyn’s juggling act of wedding, portrait, nature and landscape photography.
He took up photography as a hobby over 13 years ago while living on Fraser Island as a guide, but it wasn’t until he moved back to the mainland that his career behind the camera took off. On a mate’s suggestion, he entered photos for a local exhibition and inadvertently kicked off his photography career. “At that exhibition, I sold a bunch of photos that I never expected to, and it went from there,” he says. “I was really just taking photos for the general love of it, as most people do, and then it somehow just started to make money for me.”