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#lamonoCHATS: nil puissant, the man who tamed the sea

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 | T: lamono

When you are driven by an unbridled passion, no obstacle will be able to stop you. For the French photographer Nil Puissant, every wave is perfect, screwing up the complicated cliché that affirms size does matter. Regardless if they are 3 meters tall or just 50 centimeters, each wave brings along a new opportunity, to surf, to enjoy and to shoot. Standing young at 21 years old, he started working on his craft less than a year ago with a romantic purpose on his mind: turn the surf sessions with his friends into physical memories to share with the world. Free of any kind of pressure and fueled with a great desire to travel and move forward, this upcoming photographer is establishing his blueprint within the industry with images that capture thoroughly the everlasting dialogue that has been unfolding over thousands of years between man and the sea, understood as a refuge capable of sheltering amid its immensity the human figure, which delves in its liquid composition, always embracing and welcoming. It’s not only about the action but also about capturing the tranquility that arises from contemplating nature. Take a look at his work, we promise it won’t disappoint you.

How did you get into surf photography? What elements drew you into this specific style? It was a bit by chance; I have always practiced skateboarding, snowboarding and bodysurfing. Since a young age I’ve been surrounded by images of these sports. So one day I bought a GoPro with my first pay of a little summer job, to bring back some memories of the sessions with the mates. As soon as I started to photograph in the water I realized how much I love it.

Your surf photography often embodies the ever-latent dichotomy that exists within surfing: the rush of adrenaline and the sensation of tranquility. When shooting, which aspects do you enjoy capturing the most? I love those two aspects you mentioned, the adrenaline and the sensation you experience when a 10-feet wave at Teahupoo passes over your head, or when you are surfing a 50cm at home with your best mate, doing some crazy shit. It’s so much fun to witness nature’s greatness. But what really attracts me the most is the aesthetics of this sport; it’s really what I’m looking for, besides huge maneuvers and action shots. I love shooting surfing and, more precisely, single fin surf. I think it has a beautiful motion to it.


It seems like you enjoy spending your time along the Bay of Biscay Coastline and in the South Pacific, at spots like Île d’Oléron and Teahupoo. Can you share with us some of your favorite surf locations to shoot? Are there any places you haven’t been to where you would like to shoot in the future? I have not yet been able to travel enormously, for now. Most of the time I shoot at home, between Les Landes and the Bassin d’Arcachon, on different spots like “La Salie”, “Bobbys” and “Biscarosse”. Good conditions are more unlikely here than towards Hossegor, for exemple, which can be frustrating, but we still have some cool waves to have fun. Teahupoo and Tahiti was really special, it was my first trip and only a few months after I started taking pictures. It was fucking crazy, the waves there are incredible, but it really was the atmosphere that prevails there what marked me; nature is so present. I came back with incredible memories, even though I lost some 3000 pictures of the trip. It’s hard to say where I would like to go to next, there are so many places I haven’t visited! New Zealand, Japan, Australia, United States, Chile, Sri Lanka, Portugal, the Basque Country, for example, but simply starting by exploring all of the French coastline could be great!

Do you see yourself covering aquatic competitions in the future? For example, Quiksilver’s Eddie Aikau Surf Memorial or solo yacht races like the Vendée Globe. I already shoot for a small competition near my hometown; it’s a whole deal of fun so, why not? Nevertheless, it’s not something that attracts enough to pursue it further. I don’t really have the spirit of competition within me.


To be at Teahupoo and have a 10-feet wave passing over your head, or surfing a 50cm at home with your best friend, are both amazing sensations hard to match.


On your website, one of your collections claims, “Film is not dead.” Why do you feel that this statement is true, especially when DSLR cameras and digital retouching dominate so much of the industry right now? Yeah, you’re right, the digital era is constantly evolving and cameras are becoming more and more sophisticated, as retouching software becomes more and more accessible. Most people take pictures. Photography is very democratized media. People take a pictures with their phones or DSLRs, put a filter or spend hours retouching them and then publish everything on their social media; “Hallelujah! I have more than a hundred notifications”, they say. But apart from that, there still are, thank god, some photographers, professionals and amateurs, rebels, who continue to use the film process, which I find brings us back to the source and rekindles the passion for photography. For me it’s really about personal pleasure, more than a professional requirement. I can shoot 10 frames per second in crazy situations, with mind-blowing quality, and be able to check the photos immediately; I have progressed a lot like that, it’s crazy damn cool! Both methods are incredible for different reasons. With film it takes more time, and I’ve found that the lived moment, the sensation, the aesthetics and the result are much simpler and natural thanks to it. It’s very exciting to be able to ally the two without asking questions. We have incredible tools with great provisions; either old or new, it’s so cool!

In your article, No Need More for Saltwater, you mention that the weather was “sad,” but the desire to surf was “strong”. What are your dream surf conditions? Certainly a wave resembling Noosa -without all the people-, a perfect wave for longboard, rolling over hundreds of meters; a place where I can shoot for a few hours and then take my board to take full advantage of the waves. I would do a hang ten, which I don’t know how to do, but we are talking about dreamt conditions, so I can write what I want.


Recently, you have been working along the French surf couture label, Sen No Sen, as brand ambassador. How did this relationship come about and develop, and what has resulted of this alliance? When I started taking pictures, I already knew the brand, it is from the same city where I live at. I had already worn their wetsuits and sent them some of my photos to make me notice. Quickly enough, Mathieu Desaphie (creator and manager of the brand) contacted me to see if we could work together, we talked about what we wanted to do and how we each saw things evolving. It’s great to belong to something whilst still being free; I like the fact that it’s not a huge factory, but just a good brand with quality products and a true vision behind them. This is just the beginning; we have some cool stuff coming in.

Are you working on any new projects or exhibitions that our readers should know about? For the moment I’m taking a break from photography, which will last for a few months. Usually I take advantage of the winter season to make some cash. I plan to buy and build a van (very original) to be on the road more often. I recently exhibited in a new organic shop in Bordeaux, which was an awesome experience; it’s cool to have your work exhibited for the first time. As I mentioned, there’s also some cool stuff coming up with Sen No Sen, and I’m also working on a project with my best friend. Personally, I want to experience something different, focus on other aspects of my photography, not just surfing. It’s been a little bit over a year that I started taking photos, so I try not to put too much pressure on myself, regardless, there are a lot of other things I want to do, within photography and even video.





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