OCW: At the event, you mentioned that Flame's influence somehow trickled down to you as a kid growing up in Oz. How did that happen?
RC: Well, I would say that the ethics of perfect lighting, of perfect action, perfect composing really set the platform out there for a generation of guys, who are now the senior editors and photo editors at magazines. I'm part of the third generation.
OCW: Any guys in particular from that second generation?
RC: Pete Taras from Surfing Magazine has really helped me alot with the technical and post-processing side of things. And guys like Aaron Chang--my gosh, what can you say about that guy? He's a great photographer and businessman.
OCW: It sounds like you know how to work hard. How does a rough Australian kid working in the coal mines end up with a passion and talent for photography?
RC: The passion was there early, I guess. And looking back, I could see some composition happening. I'd like to say I come from a creative family...my brother is an animator. But I hurt my knee working in the mine and i needed major surgery. I'd always wanted to buy an SLR, and I thought, "maybe this is the chance to finally do that." That was two and a half years ago, when I bought my first camera. It grew organically...I never really tried. It wasn't really that hard, it just kind of happened. I was imobile...the worst time of my life. But it started the wheels turning for the best time of my life.
OCW: In addition to the money, does the grant lend you any other percs? Will it be easier to do what you do? Or maybe easier to get paid to do what you do?
RC: Really it's about the prestige that goes with it. The money is cool, and I plan to put it to good use. But if you're going to a job interview with three other guys, and you've won the flame award...everyone knows about it. You're not just a name in a box anymore. You're a guy they've had lunch with, had a beer with. And I'm forging relationships with companies like Hurley and Surfing Magazine.
OCW: Describe your favorite photo. Or maybe just some things about your artistic process.
RC: My style is more water photography, rather than land. I think it's better to specialize in an area. When you're standing on the beach, putting your housing together, making sure it doesn't leak, and your heart's pounding and there's 20-foot waves out there...often times, you're trying to stay out of danger, which doesn't always work, because the best shots are when it's pounding out there. My personal rule is that if I get dumped three or more times in a session, I'm doing my job.
OCW: Where else can we see your work?
RC: At my website, RayCollinsPhoto.com. And I work for Surfing Life Magazine in Australia.
OCW: And what's your next project, whether it be big or small? What's on the horizon for you?
RC: Well, this time of year it's usually just getting ready for the North Shore of Hawaii season. But I'll also be studying photography this year. That's what I'm going to spend the grant money on--getting more of a technical background, learning more about light and the technical side of things...
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OCW: Where do you plan to study?
RC: I'll probably study through correspondence, so I can keep chasing swells and stuff.
OCW: Anything else?
RC: I'd like to thanks some people: My girlfriend, Cherise. My dog, Chantic. The guys at Surfing Life--Time, Ben and Chris. Nick Carroll, the editor at Surfing Life and the guy who made it possible for me to be at the event last week. And my bosses at N.R.E, where I work in the coal mine. Thanks to everybody for making this possible for me.