Photographer Simon Eeles captures the colour, eccentricity and diversity of Rockaway in his latest personal project.

Photographer Simon Eeles captures the colour, eccentricity and diversity of Rockaway in his latest personal project.

Simon Eeles is no stranger to glamour. The Tasmania-born fashion photographer captures it regularly – shooting sharp, lavish spreads for publications like Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, and Interview. Even his personal projects, which are shot in decidedly less elegant locations, manage to retain that same sense of sophistication.

His latest book, Far, Far Rockaway, serves as the perfect example. Despite being shot on the chaotic coast of New York city, it oozes opulence. The project magnifies the characters of local eccentrics, amps up their allure, and paints a colourful and diverse picture of the Rockaway coastline.

Released by Damiani later this month, Far, Far Rockaway is Simon’s second personal project. The first, Australiana, was an equally sun-soaked selection of photography, with the photographer heading home to Tasmania to rediscover his roots. “Summer has been my only canvas,” the photographer explains. “It brings out the optimistic in all of us.” We caught up with him to find out more.

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Why did you choose Rockaway beach for your latest personal project?
The beach was always meant to be a place to start my work. Having spent the previous six years working in New York city, I had grown to love the oddity that is Rockaway. For me, the area offered all the colour and contrast I needed.

Far Far Rockaway is your second personal project book. In terms of the people you encountered, how does it compare to Australiana?
They were totally different. Australiana was me going through the motions of figuring out my home nation through photography. It was full of mistakes and love. Far, Far Rockaway was a project that lasted two years, and probably one year of production before that. It was focused on finding and airing the uniqueness of this New York beach. The actual people I encountered couldn’t be further from each other. The New York beach crowd came to the party with energy and colour in abundance. It was a more open environment for this type of work, and ultimately gave the narrative more depth. Australiana I was a bit more of an outsider, as I’d become partly Americanised following my time spent living in New York.

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Where is home to you now?
I live in London currently, and have been here for the past year. I came with my family for one more adventure and challenge before our son gets too old. The pace and culture here are similar to Australia but also very foreign. It does work as a good place of contrast to the usual sunny places I linger around.

What about New York? You lived there for years – what did you learn from the city?
My time in Rockaway beach was really fantastic as it was the break from the city that I never had previously. Working with friends in creating something we hoped felt optimistic and new was the main experience for me. The first year was really a new experience where I tried to keep up the pace with the ideas, with the second year being more reflective and learning from previous mistakes. I think both years look very different but will tell the same story.

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

You often play with stereotypes and caricatures in your work. Why are you so drawn to them?
I’ve always liked comics and how they can portray characters in such a way that expands on simple ideas. When casting I gravitate to strong, simple characters. I then try to expand on them with photographic tricks. I like people who have a style that’s created for themselves – not necessarily for a greater audience. I usually try and avoid things which I already visually know.

Do you know what your other personal projects will be yet? What’s next for you?
My next project is about my love of movies and Hollywood. I’ll be shooting in LA this summer… but not on the beach.

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Courtesy Damiani / Simon Eeles

Far, Far Rockaway will be released by Damiani on August 31

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