Lonely Planet Writer

A new documentary exploring our relationship with the sea is winning fans at festivals this summer

A new documentary called Fishpeople available on iTunes and Amazon Prime, and shown at film festivals this summer, is proving a sleeper hit. Directed by surfer Keith Malloy, it’s ‘a film about lives transformed by the sea’. Keen to explore the draw of the ocean, Keith meets a selection of characters from around the world, including professional surfers, a deep-water diver, an open-ocean swimmer, and Australian surfer and ocean photographer, Ray Collins.

Ray Collins in the ocean.
Ray Collins in the ocean. Image by FishPeople

“I was approached by Andrew and Keith at Patagonia”, explains Ray. “They wanted to show the different types of people who all share a common bond with the ocean. A few Skype interviews later, and we all felt that there was a unique story to be told.” Filming in Ray’s homeland of Australia was risky, but the gamble paid off. “My one real concern was that we wouldn’t get waves while the film crew was here, as it’s out of season for where I live. I knew the visuals would need to play a pretty big part in showing my story. But, not only did we get waves, we had one of the biggest swells in months, even years! That’s the stuff you can’t plan, as we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. But I find when things are meant to be, they often are.”

Sunburt, from the documentary.
Sunburt, from the documentary. Image by FishPeople

Ray was a natural choice for the documentary, as he grew up loving the ocean. “It’s honestly all I’ve ever known”, he says. “My earliest memories are of being underwater on my mother’s back as she would glide weightlessly. I remember it feeling like another world being in the water, but at the same time it felt more like home than anything else I’d experienced, or continue to experience. I’ve always lived near the ocean”, he continues, “and it’s taught me many of my most profound life lessons: patience, humility, trust, courage and respect. It’s shown me how to overcome doubt, how to turn fear into excitement.”

A film about the transformative effects of time spent in the ocean.
A film about the transformative effects of time spent in the ocean. Image by FishPeople

This deep love for the ocean comes through in Ray’s stunning photography. “In my darkest hours, it’s been the single constant in my life, and I treat it as if it’s a living, breathing thing in my images. That’s why I feel it’s almost like having someone sit for a portrait, and I try to convey what I see.” Of his wealth of beautiful shots, has he a favourite? “Art is always open to interpretation”, he says, “and I find it’s about what the individual takes away from the image. I have favourite shots that only last for a season. I honestly feel the best things haven’t been seen yet.”