Jess Parkes, waves, wildness and kindness.

Jess Parkes, waves, wildness and kindness.

Jess Parkes, waves, wildness and kindness a quote direct from her amazing portfolio, every image portrays those feelings, a unique collection of images of the ocean and its surrounding lifestyle.

Jess tell us a little about yourself, where are you based and how did you get into photography?

Hello Vagabond! I am currently based in beautiful Currumbin, on the Gold Coast, Queensland Australia.

I was always writing when I was a kid, keeping journals and recording everything. My dad handed me my first film camera when I was 10 and that was it. I grew up surfing and sailing so I was just naturally drawn to photographing the ocean and my friends and family having fun sharing waves. A couple of years ago a friend handed me a GoPro and a shoelace to tie it to my wrist and I swam out at Little Cove in Noosa - I think I shot about 20,000 frames – HA! -- and my obsession with that aspect of my photography began.

What fascinates you about the ocean?

What isn’t fascinating about mother Ocean! She is so raw, so beautiful, and so important. And beneath the surface - so much life, most of it unexplored - for all that we think we know about it, there’s always so much more that we don’t.
I am completely fascinated by the way the water moves, and how we move with it. Sometimes I can slow down when I am shooting in the water – concentrate and totally focus on the decisive moment before pressing the shutter. Other times it is a physical and mental battle and trying to record and translate how the moment felt can be a huge challenge. So I suppose I’m most fascinated by how the ocean makes me feel.

Your biggest inspiration?

I draw most of my inspiration from the people I know –the ones who take their dreams and work at them, who aspire for happiness over greatness and are brave enough to be their true selves. I’m inspired most by kindness, living a little wild and free, creativity, and love – it’s a mad world we live in so these things are most important to me.
Photographers – there are so many! A few in no particular order – Purienne, SA Rips, Jen Stenglein, Andy Staley, Jill Freedman, Dana Trippe, Brad Elterman, Pennie Smith, Woody Gooch, Mary Ellen Mark. Haha, the list goes on and on and on and...

And my parents. I aspire to be as cool as them and I'm pretty sure I’ll never come close.

What have been some of your toughest challenges in your photographic career?

Deciding to shoot full time and all the challenges that brings. Just believing in something deeply enough to leave the security of the 9-5 – It’s a big leap, turning a passion into a business and I learnt very quickly that I will only ever get out what I put in. I have found reaching out to other photographers has been a huge help – everyone is so pumped for one another’s creative vision and is super excited to see how the industry continues to evolve.
I found at the beginning, as all photographers do – that it was tricky trying to have my work recognised in a financial sense. The landscape of the industry has changed, as it always does and always should. I just navigate through that by working and working .. and working some more!

What equipment do you shoot with currently?

I’m currently shooting with a Nikon D750 with Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens and Aquatech Elite housing in-water and Nikon D500 sport cam with a Nikon 28-300mm lens on land. I’m also currently shooting non stop on my Nikonos underwater film cam which I am head over heels in love with! Film-wise I’m shooting everything – Pentax, Yashica, Minolta etc.

What is your all-time favourite image and why? (Cover Image)

My favourite image is of local Byron legend Jimmy, surfing a party wave with a beautiful local Bottlenose dolphin. I shot this image after surfing all day surrounded by dolphins at Wategos in Byron. It was the perfect afternoon in the Bay, everyone sharing waves and laughs in the setting sun. I sat on the beach and wanted this shot in particular, and I just waited and waited. When I took the photo and posted it online a lovely lady sent me an email telling me her boyfriend had raced home bursting to tell her about this amazing wave he had shared with a dolphin. She recognised him in the image and had it printed for him as a surprise. I have just loved the countless messages from people expressing their delight at such a captured moment. This image has been the most widely shared of my work around the world, and I was so happy to provide it for the cover to the Blue Book – a marine conservation handbook released alongside the award-winning ‘Blue’ film.

If you could only take one camera and lens on your next job (you can throw in a water housing), what will be your go to set up to get the job done?

A NikonD4, Nikon 35mm lens and an Aquatech Housing. That’s all I would need to get the job done!!

Your dream projects?

Any involvement with shooting and documenting marine conservation projects - I have an intense desire to lend my efforts and imagery to projects with a purpose, to highlight the importance of protecting our beloved oceans.
I dream of shooting in the water in big swell at some of the wildest breaks both here and abroad. The water-women and men swimming out where few dare to tread water - I just think they are SO inspiring and so gnarly and I dream of being ready and brave enough one day to join them!
I also dream of making a film – a beautiful film in celebration of surfing and the magic of the sea, focusing on women in the water.
So projects where I can lend my time and imagery to things that matter and inspire - and just surf, explore, and record and share experiences with people…. I guess that’s my Dream-life Project.

Where can we follow your work? 
Instagram @jessparkesphotography


  • Lorraine Parkes: April 24, 2018

    So proud Jess….it’s one thing to understand the peace an Ocean brings, whether within it, sailing through it or just watching it….something your entire family and past generations included totally relate to. However, to immortalise this exact feeling in a photo is something truly special…you have enabled us, your family in particular, to take their love of the sea just one step further….thank you…♥️ Mumma Bear

  • Sandy Turvey-Parkes: April 24, 2018

    Well done Jess. Fantastic work go girl. Lovely you acknowledge your parents who are an amazing couple in their own right. Stay motivated and we wish you future success. Cheers Sandy and Jeff

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