12 Remarkable Images Pulled From John Respondek's Taj, Dion, And Craig Books
Spon is doing his damndest to give his surf photography breath off the Internet.
(Ed Note: John Respondek is a character we're fond of. He got his start as Taj Burrow's righthand lensman, and since has hopped through generations of surfers moving the cultural needle in Australia. He's worked with Stab since the early days. Spon possesses a special type of ride or die enthusiasm. He's always excited and looking for new trips and projects; it's that, plus his imagery (which speaks for itself) that's kept him in this game for so long. We're fans. If you're liking what you see below, head here to order any of his Taj, Dion, Or Craig books. They're 120 pages of tangible gold and a fine accouterment to any coffee table or bookshelf.)
About five years ago I realised something as a surf photographer…
While I appreciated much of the success I received in published work, at times I was a little disappointed in what images were run, and how they were edited. So, I thought it would be fun to take control and whip up my own publications.
I also realised that I usually worked closely with a small selection of surfers, which has, in turn, resulted in a huge image archive of these guys. Most of this imagery, and the imagery in the books, had been laying dormant in old hard drives for years. I wanted to give them a chance to breath and see the light of day in some kind of tangible piece.
I also have a massive love for surf print, and with surf magazines dropping like flies… I wanted to do my part to keep the art form alive. That's how the Craig, Taj, Dion and a soon-to-come Chippa books were born.
You know what’s funny? Craig named the location as Ireland in his caption of this image from the book. It was actually shot during one of our many South Coast shoots. Craig thought it would be fun to say it was Ireland, as he was wearing a hood, gloves, and boots and looked freezing!
This image was shot in the isolated desert of South Australia. It was one of the most memorable waves I've witnessed and shot. Actually, I will never forget this moment. I was shooting next to good friend and filmer, Tyge Landa. I remember saying ‘the swell died and I’m ready to pack up and have a beer’. Tyge was adamant that there was one more wave on the way, and Craig was going to get a crazy one. We stood strong with the desert flies swarming for a while longer, and sure enough, the wave of the day came through, and yep… Craig was on it. He rode through the big old thing and was bucked around all over the place. For a skinny little guy, I have no idea how he held on. Such a nice ride. Tyge was right!
I remember scaling down a steep and sketchy cliff with loose gravel in an attempt to get a good angle on this wave. I wanted to get far enough around that I could get both Craig and the lonely rock island in frame. While I really like this shot itself, it always reminds me of the time I decided to remove my camera equipment from its hard, protective case, and fill it with beers and ice. Ya gotta have your priorities right on the big jobs.
As a photographer, I’m always trying to shoot things a bit differently or capture some kind of mood. Shooting with Craig makes it easier, but there was still some work left for me on this one!
Dion and Craig were both cramming last minute clips for "Cluster". They decided to hire a chopper to help get the job done. While the surfing was pretty cool, the most memorable part for me was the joyride over Jervis Bay and the White sands of Hyam’s Beach… Some of the whitest sand in the world, they reckon.
Israel is such a rad place. Dion and I went there for a shoot for the guys over there at Stab magazine back in 2014. We were lucky enough to be hosted by some of the raddest Israeli people, who showed us many parts of the wonderful culture and also the fun as hell lifestyle. The place goes off!! Oh yeah… and we scored some really fun waves too.
Dion started up his eyewear company, Epokhe, a few years back, and this was the first trip we ever did as a team. Kai Neville was making a film for the brand and we thought it would be cool to use this rusted out metal structure as a backdrop for the shots.
When Dion and I shoot, we often discuss angles and ideas for unique shots. During a South Coast shoot, we kept driving past this little lake type thing at the beach. I kept saying it would make the sickest shot if we could use the lake as a foreground and he could do an air in the distance. Turned out pretty cool.
Taj and I have been shooting photos around his home in Western Australia for about 20 years. It’s always so much fun to stay and hang out with him over there. He’s one of the best hosts ever, and always shows us a great old time. I remember shooting this one from a jet ski when I was almost flipped over in the lip! I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the camera away and stop shooting it.
I have always loved this shot, it's part of an old Stab shoot. It’s actually hanging on the wall in my house as a big canvas print. Shooting from a chopper is most definitely my favourite thing, however on this occasion I was thrilled to see it from another angle. I mean, it looks pretty wild to see someone jump out of a chopper with a board!
This one was back in about 2007, when I was invited on another Stab initiative-photoshoot. In usual outlandish Stab style, they rented a chopper and organised Taj, Kelly, Dion and Damon Nichols to surf at South Straddie on the Gold Coast. This shot was used by Billabong all over the world. I was always so thrilled whenever it popped up.
Taj at Macaronis is always a treat to watch and shoot. He’s always so low and compact off the bottom and electric off the top. This particular trip had plenty of ups and downs due to an absolutely rooted boat and weird as hell crew. We did, however, have a really fun night drinking beer and cutting mohawk haircuts.