When presented with a powerful and moving story, it’s a natural reaction to want to share it. This is exactly how Indonesia-based photographer Ed Wray felt when asked to shoot a story about paraplegic surfer Bruno Hansen. Jennifer Santana, the Director of Photography for Men’s Journal, found Ed on Wonderful Machine and hired him to fly to Bali, where Bruno currently resides, to capture imagery for the article, written by Ariel Leve.
Jennifer’s pitch was to show a day in the life of Bruno as he surfs, eats, and talks about life. After hearing the proposal, Ed did some of his own research, and once he learned more about Bruno, he knew he had to help share his story.
In a tragic accident at 27 years of age, Bruno lost the ability to use his legs. Six years later, he survived the 2004 tsunami that devastated Phuket. Bruno has navigated through these experiences and more to become the person he is today, fearless and full of life.
At the time of the shoot, Bruno was preparing to travel to California and compete in the World Adaptive Surfing Championship, meaning that Ed had limited time to photograph Bruno in his element in Bali. With that in mind, Ed had lots of pre-planning to do before he could start shooting, including location scouting with Bruno upon arrival to see where the best waves would be the next day.
Although this was to be reportage, and I normally work in this style with very minimal lighting gear, I wanted to have an assistant to help with some additional light modification tools in case time and light were working against us, so I hired the excellent and cheerful Zul to help with a remote speedlight/softbox and reflector.
While working together, Ed observed how Bruno has made life more accessible for himself. He travels across the island on a customized bike, carrying his wheelchair in a sidecar next to him. He designed his open plan home and built himself an elevator out of a welded steel cage, which he uses to get up to his bedroom on the second floor of his home. When he’s not surfing, Bruno is innovating new ways to make life smoother, whether it’s getting into the water faster or increasing efficiency in his daily tasks so that he can continue to do more.
Bruno is really energetic, but laid back at the same time. It’s an unusual combination, but he pulls it off. He’s very comfortable with who he is which really made following him around all day with a camera much easier […] The one thing that really struck me about spending time and listening to Bruno is the incredible richness that comes from having a fearless attitude and simplifying life down to the essentials.
The only struggle Ed faced when photographing Bruno was getting him to slow down. They arrived at one of Bruno’s favorite surfing locations at 4:30 am. Despite the rain and the darkness, Bruno was quick to get in the water.
I asked if we could wait for 15 minutes or so for the light to improve. No chance, he said, if I don’t get out there now, the current will be no good. Surf waits for no man!
Ed and Zul got set up in a matter of seconds as Bruno waxed his board, and within 2 minutes he was in the water. Despite the low light, Ed managed to capture some great shots using the softbox and remote trigger. After the surf session, Ed worked on capturing some portraits of Bruno on his board, and Zul proved to be very valuable in following Bruno with a reflector to fill shadows.
Both Bruno and the client loved the images, and the photos complemented the story perfectly. Although the next steps for this project are currently unknown, Ed has kept in touch with Bruno and heard that Hollywood producers are reaching out to make a feature film about Bruno’s incredible life.
When asked about his favorite part of the shoot, Ed responded:
Of course I love being in Bali any time I have the chance, but really the best part of it all was to spend a day and a night with a truly adventurous, no mask, no fear, individual and to learn a bit from him on how to pare down to essentials to live the good life.
To read the complete article written by Ariel Leve, click here.
See more of Ed at ed-wray.com!