Of the hundreds if not thousands of photos Russell Ord has captured in his lifetime, he figures there are maybe three or four that perfectly encapsulate everything he wants his photography to represent.
“Everything else is just a moment in time,” Russell told me over Skype from his place in New Zealand. “There are photos where guys are just shooting rapid fire moments from a boat or the beach, and maybe one of those moments in time becomes famous. And the reality is anyone could click a button from the beach or on the back of a ski. The photos that I most enjoy are the ones with a story behind them, where you say to yourself no other photographer could have taken that photo – whether it’s a Zak Noyle or a Brent Bielmann or anybody else. And I reckon I’ve got maybe three or four images where anyone else would have a hard time getting that shot.”
An endemic surf photographer who’s had images published in magazines and websites (including this one!) the world over, Ord is known not just for the incredible water shots he takes, but for his propensity to put himself in precarious positions at some of the most dangerous waves in the world, all for the sake of the shot. “When I’m out there I just want to feel like I’m surfing,” said Ord. “And if that means getting flogged after going over the falls, well, so be it.”
Ord traces the beginnings of his interest in photography to days choosing to document surf sessions with his friends. Eventually, he had a steady good-paying job as a firefighter. One day he simply decided he wasn’t coming back. “It was one of the hardest emails I’ve ever had to send,” he said.
But having seen serious injury and death on numerous occasions during his tenure as a firefighter, Ord new that he wanted to maximize life’s opportunities. In other words, go big.
“I do not want to take a combination of good surf photos over time,” said Ord in a gallery we published back in 2012. “Nor do I want do I want to be remembered for just being in the channel at the right time and right place capturing the surfer’s wave of a lifetime. Because in the end, that’s easy. As a photographer I want to remember myself for taking that ‘one’ photo – not because of the surfer’s name or reputation, but because of the position I put myself in to capture the moment in time.”
The foreshadowing back then was apt, as a newly released documentary, One Shot-An Image and an Attitude, follows Ord in his quest to capture that career-defining image or die trying.
“Russell Ord wakes one morning in Margaret River, looks over the photos he’s spent a large part of his life capturing and is filled with an overpowering sense of dissatisfaction…” the film’s synopsis explains. “Just down the coast is a thick, evil, brute of a wave he knows will deliver the opportunity to capture just that. But as a loving husband with three kids it’s not lost on him that the end goal, and that drive to have ‘his moment’, isn’t going to come without sacrifice.”
One Shot isn’t just Ord’s journey for the photo, the title of the film hints at Ord’s guiding principle – that life is short, and we each only have one chance to do it, so find what you love and “give it a dig.”
Says Ord, “If this film inspires even one person to have a crack at doing what they love, then it’s done its job.”