In Arts + Entertainment

The Back-Stories Behind Aquabumps’ Most Iconic Shots

Aquabumps loves all things beach. It’s the line written on his website and one that sums his work up well. So who is Aquabumps?

He’s Eugene Tan or Uge for short. He worked as a creative director at a digital agency in 1999. Feeling unfulfilled in the role, he spent his time sending friends photos he’d taken of beaches around Sydney.

Friends of friends asked to be put on the daily e-mails list and by 2002, he was sending them to 10,000 people.

Next came the requests for prints. He developed a metallic print technique no one else was doing at the time and set up an online shop to sell them. Aquabumps was born.

After that things escalated quickly. A gallery space was opened on North Bondi’s Brighton Boulevard. Uge travelled to Bali, Mentawais, Tahiti and Fiji to take photos. He started experimenting with aerial photography.

Today, Aquabumps shows no signs of slowing down. His gallery moved to a prime spot on Curlewis Street in Bondi. He has three photography books and numerous commercial partnerships including deals with Speedo, Canon, and Samsung under his belt. He’s shot for Vogue Australia and has works sold at Sydney’s international departures terminal.

His wife Debbie, whom he met when she came into his gallery to buy a print, manages his ventures and public relations. Here she tells us the back-stories behind some of his most iconic shots.

First up: Lone Swimmer. Arguably his most recognisable image, it shows a girl swimming off the rocks in North Bondi. It was shot on Uge’s first-ever chopper ride, a present Debbie bought him for Christmas 10 years ago.

“To this day it’s still a gallery favourite,” she says. “It evokes escapism and embodies everything that the Aquabumps brand stands for.”

On the other side of Bondi, in the south end, Angular Bergs was snapped. It captures one of the most photographed and famous pools in the world, Icebergs.

“We once lined it with a shot of the Amalfi, popped up an Italian exhibition at the pool and filled it with water with the image on the bottom,” says Debbie. “We love Icebergs.”

It seems the public loves it as much as they do. Whitey is another bestseller. Shot on a Thursday when Icebergs was being cleaned, it shows the pool empty with a wave crashing over the edge.

“A rare moment on a beautiful summer’s day,” says Debbie.

Another popular aerial shot is Bogey Hole. A few beaches down from Bondi in Bronte, it’s a strong example of Uge’s signature style. Debbie describes it as a slice of the Amalfi Coast here in Australia.

Uge did in fact visit the Italian coastline on several occasions to take photos. Peppermint Fresh is one of the images that came out of his trips.

“This is the image we lined the Icebergs pool with,” says Debbie. “It was shot from a helicopter and shows the bright coloured candy-style umbrellas that thousands of Italians and tourists flock to experience every summer in Italy.”

Summer in Australia also sees thousands – especially at Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs beaches. Slab Bakes shows one such scene in Clovelly, a beach between Bronte and Coogee.

“Clovelly is a swimmer’s paradise where people bake on the flat cement rocks,” says Debbie. “This photo is sentimental to many people who both live near it and frequent it daily. It evokes memories of first swims and long balmy days and nights.”

Back in Bondi a few months later and degrees cooler, Shepherds Warning was shot. It shows a winter’s daybreak at the beach.

“July is a beautiful time of year for colours in our sunrises. The mornings are fresh and the beaches are empty in the early hours of sunrises.

“Bondi is a special place for both travellers and locals so this image appeals to anyone who has experienced an early morning at Bondi Beach.”

Published 09 May, 2018