The call of the coastline

Ed with one of his photographs. Photo Zoe Moffatt.
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Ed Sloane is one of Australia's most well-known surf photographers, but he didn't always have his sights set on a career through a camera lens. Zoe Moffatt reports.

With sun-kissed hair, blue eyes and a brown trimmed beard, Ed Sloane is one of Australia’s most well-known surf photographers. However, this 34-year-old didn’t always have his sights set on a career through a camera lens.

Ed was born and raised in Ballarat, just an hour from home in Torquay, where he is based these days. Growing up so close to the coast fostered a strong bond with the water, which would eventually lead him to change careers.

Sitting down with Ed and his new five-month-old baby girl Eva, his naturally calm and efficient nature is obvious. He is thoughtful and calculated in responses, always offering more information while never forgetting about the baby in his hands. It is clear, through watching Ed’s behaviour, why he is successful.

Before getting into photography Ed worked in environmental science as a hydrographer. His passion for the environment led to an interest in surf photography after his brother took up photography as a hobby. Ed’s wife, Jackie Scally, wasn’t surprised when he took up photography, as “it was an opportunity [for him] to spend even more time in the water.”

He realised on a trip to Europe in 2012 that he could make photography work as a profession. He just needed to take a “leap of faith and go for it.”

“I was looking to work for myself just as much as I was looking to see if I could make photography work,” said Ed. Wanting to be self-employed was a major motivation for Ed to make photography work.

Ed’s initiative and motivation throughout his career lead him to undertake a small government funded business course. The course offered three to six months of education about starting a business.

“When you finish the course they subsidise your income for 12 months,” said Ed. “The whole idea of doing the course was to give me a year of slightly more steady income but I found the course was incredibly useful,” he said. 

He has worked for brands such as Ripcurl, Lululemon and The World Surf League. Ed cites several reasons for his success. “One is because I was really motivated to work for myself and highly motivated to make it work,” he said. “Another big factor was that I had experience in the work place and dealing with people and all the rest of it,” said Ed.

“Ed really puts himself out there and he hasn’t been afraid to go and talk to people, he’s very good at networking” said Jackie. “He’s got a creative eye and obviously takes good photos but that’s only a small part of it.”

Ed photographing the rooftops in Richmond. Photo Zoe Moffatt.

The most challenging aspect of changing careers for Ed was completely committing to photography. “The hardest bit is to actually make the decision to do it. Instead of doing it part-time and having another job, it’s like right all I’m going to do is this” said Ed.

However, it is this commitment and hard work that has resulted in Ed having a full-page photograph published in the New York Times Magazine, his biggest career highlight. “Watching a couple of world titles and being present for some key surf moments [is also a highlight]. It’s been cool to see a few shots I’ve taken that are in the sport now become classical images that they always use,” said Ed.

As Ed’s career has developed he has become more established and well-known throughout Australia and the surf community. “My career has changed because I’ve become more established and I probably haven’t recognised that properlyBut if I step back and think about it I am definitely getting better work” said Ed. 

The arrival of Ed’s daughter has changed his career and made him think differently about certain clients and the work that he does. Jackie credits that Ed’s experience and development “has [made him] become more efficient and he has got a lot more confidence doing what he’s doing.”

Ed “backs himself a lot more now and he’s like well this is my style, and people know that and they employ him for that reason” said Jackie.

With Ed’s recent success he now finds time-management to be the most challenging part of his job. “I’m now at the point where it’s probably the first period where I hadn’t really had much down time in the last 12 months. In the previous couple of years I had periods where I wasn’t too busy and now I feel like I’m probably a lot busier all the time, and the hardest thing is managing all the work I’ve got. My time has become more valuable,” said Ed.

With Ed’s work described “devastatingly simple and devastatingly beautiful” by Bells Fine Artthis Torquay-based photographer is one to watch.