Barrie Sutherland - Pioneer Surf Photographer

Barrie Sutherland began surfing in the 1950s at Torquay in the state of Victoria, Australia. He was inspired in 1956 when the Californians, Greg Noll, Mike Bright, Tom Zahn and Bobby Burnside visited Torquay for the Melbourne Olympics exhibition surf carnival. When they paddled out and rode malibus for the first time at Torquay Point, Barrie was captivated for life! He wanted to surf like they did

After that life-changing experience, Barrie spent many years surfing and photographing the waves along Victoria's Great Ocean Road. He was part of the 1960s Torquay-Bells Beach surfing community and highly respected for his surfing ability. Surfing came first and photography second. The combination produced one of Australia's finest portfolios of surfing photographs. It contains many of the legends of Australian surfing in some of the best quality competition surf captured in the country.

Barrie pioneered water photography at Bells when he paddled out on a malibu surfboard as close as he could to the impact zone. With a Nikonos camera tied to his waist he took the first photographs of Bells from the water. The perspective was very different from land-based photography. The images achieved Barrie's goal to capture the view surfers had from the take-off zone. The waves were not flat walls on a flat canvas that typifies land-based photography. Now the intensity and dynamics of surfing were on show for people who had never ventured into that zone and experienced the sounds and power of large breaking waves!

Barrie's work is noted for its strong tonal quality and exquisite composition, reflecting the quality of surf produced by the power-laden ground swells of the Southern Ocean. Throughout the 1960s, Barrie worked with the major Australian surfing magazines of the time and was appointed staff photographer at Surfabout Magazine.

His coverage of the Bells Easter contest is renowned for its historical significance, capturing a special time and place in the evolution of Australian surfing. Easter Sunday 1965 was the biggest, most dangerous and heaviest swell ever experienced in an Australian Surfing contest and at Bells Beach. The peak swell, early in the morning, recorded 10m waves powering into the Bells amphitheatre and filling it with white water. The rip taking the water back out to sea was fast, powerful and vicious. Barrie's photographs put Bells Beach onto the world stage of surfing.

Years later after Bells had been established as a premier big wave contest event, the waves inspired the producers of the classic cult film, PointPoint Break to construct the story around Bells Beach. The film starred Patrick Swayze as Bodhi and Keanu Reeves as FBI Agent Johnny Utah. The plot unfolds and concludes with, “Nine months later, a long-haired Utah, still surfing, tracks down Bodhi at Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia, where a record storm is producing lethal waves. This is an event Bodhi had talked about experiencing, calling it the 50-Year Storm.”

Barrie's work has been exhibited in the Baltimore (U.S.A.) Museum of Art's 1967 international 'Man in Sport' photographic exhibition, Torquay's Surfworld Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, Margaret River Masters, and Cottesloe's Old Mal Whalebone pro-event.


“Donít be trapped by dogma, donít allow opinioniated noise to drown your inner voice. Importantly, have courage to follow your heart and intuition. They know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs, Apple founder.

“Composition is everything. I learned to make the image in the camera so these are all full frame prints. Anyone can recompose an image afterwards.” Louis Sahuc, New Orleans timeless photographer.

“Ian Hawthorn, professional photographer and regular judge at the  Geelong Camera Club. He opened my eyes to composition, light and angles.”

“Bob Weeks, who set the standard for surfing photography for me to aspire to.”


The heritage of surfing in Victoria...

“The heritage of surfing in Victoria and especially Bells Beach owes so much to the great black and white images shot by Barrie in the 60's and 70's”
Doug Warbrick, Rip Curl co-founder

Spring 2012

A living legend of the lens

“It's perhaps at times a title too easily bestowed upon people, but Victorian photographer Barrie Sutherland truly is a living legend of the lens. His celebrated work literally spans the last half a century of surfing, all starting when he first picked up a Kodak Box Brownie back in the late 1950s”
Dave Swan, Editor Smorgasboarder Magazine, issue 13, Spring 2012

Whitehorses, Spring 2012

Still surfing....

“Barrie Sutherland has been surfing since the '50s, shooting since the '60s and still practising both with passion and vigour”
Graham Murdoch, Editor, Whitehorses magazine, issue 2, Spring 2012

Australian Longboarder
50th anniversary issue

Pioneer photographers

“What a debt of gratitude we owe to those surfers who sacrificed surfing time to record their friends at the dawn of malibu surfing. The images of the '60s are not just about old old-timers living in the past they are a precious record that contemporary surfers can also tune in to. Our thanks to, amongst many, Jack Eden, Ron Perrot, Bob Evans, Albe Falzon, John Witzig, Bob Weeks, John Pennings, Mal Sutherland, Bruce Usher, Barrie Sutherland....”
Australian Longboarder 50th issue p45, Australian Longboarder

...landmarks in Australian Surf Photography

“Barrie's shots from these trips are landmarks in Australian Surf Photography, not only for their views of that which is visually extinct - empty lineups, dirt carparks and campfires - but also for the quiet simplicity of their composition”
Jock Serong Author, "The Great Ocean Road", Surfing World issue 28

He gives a timeless tranquility...

“He's one of the special photographers. I find them beautiful in composition, simplicity in their form, very interesting in the interaction of light. He gives a timeless tranquility in his photos”
Soren Carlbegg, Mal & the Longboarders Surf Band

Barrie's images hold the key to the heart

“Stunning, evocative. A timeless tranquility. If eyes are the window to the soul, then Barrie's images hold the key to the heart”
Alison Aprhys, Local Photographer & Journalist