Jakob Gjerluff’s photos are, simply put, breath taking. Drawing on inspiration from both modern day photographic artists and the pioneering photographers of old; Jakob’s photos leave viewers in a sense of awe. With a certain focus to celebrate all things nature and ocean; he is more than building a name for himself worldwide.
First of all, tell me a bit about yourself? (e.g. where you’re from, kind of person)
I’m a 25-year-old photographer from Denmark. I grew up on the West Coast in a small city right by the water. Denmark is a really small country, made up by a peninsula and a lot of small islands. In that way, you’re never more than an hour away from the ocean and the ocean is a proud part of our history. In my early years, I spent most of my free time sailing and kitesurfing and in the summer, traveling with my family. I ended up teaching both kite surfing and sailing for several years. I was also really into music at that point and played both the piano and drums for more than 10 years.
After finishing high school, I moved to Norway, a destination we used to visit as a family at least once a year to go skiing. I had a lifelong dream of living and working in the mountains which we don’t have in Denmark. So, I moved there for what was only supposed to be for one season but ended up staying for nearly 5 years. I took a course through the Norwegian Skiing Academy and Norwegian Rafting Association and worked full-time as a skiing instructor doing winter and river rafting and canoeing guide doing summer. I learnt the language and basically had a second family in my co-workers and friends.
When you move to a whole other country, not knowing anyone and ultimately leaving all your old friends behind, there is a big hole there. But I quickly met some amazing people there, with shared passions and view of life. To this day, they are still some of my best friends and with whom I share some of my must treasured memories. I try to go back a couple of times per year just to hang out and talk about old times.
It finally came to a point where I had to make a choice. Should I become a Norwegian full-time citizen or go back to Denmark. Meanwhile, I had gotten a chronic disease which was difficult to get treated in Norway since I was still a Danish citizen and I also had a Danish/Canadian girlfriend. I then decided to go back to Denmark to study for a couple of years and then maybe go back to Norway eventually.
I got into a film production program in Denmark, where I’ve been for 2 years now. I’ve gotten back into surfing a lot since I moved back home as well. Other than my family, the life around the ocean was what I was missing the most while living in the mountains. It is such a fundamental part of me and really has a lot to say when it comes to my well-being. Together with my friends and girlfriend, I spend most of my free time with surfing in mind, driving around the country in search of waves and living the good life.
The next big thing coming up is that I’ll be moving to Canada for a year with my girlfriend. Canada is such an amazing place that I’ve been lucky to visit nearly 10 times so far.
I’m trying to make it as a full-time outdoor and adventure photographer. I am shooting mostly surf and coastal oriented pictures for magazines and companies. I use my social following for some influencing and ambassador work. I also shoot events like surfing competitions, biking, wake boarding, running and so on. I’m slowly getting into selling prints through surf and lifestyle shops in the last couple of months. I’ve had a couple of pop-up galleries around Denmark under the name “Tavaha” which is old Norwegian for “taking care of the ocean” and is basically a Scandinavian version of aloha.
In the future, I hope to open a gallery on the coast somewhere. I hope to sell prints and work with big outdoor clients. I hope to get more into conservation photography and wildlife photography and really make a difference. I hope to inspire people and capture amazing moments in the great outdoors.
Why/When did you get into photography?
I bought my first camera from a friend at age 15. It was an old Canon 500d with a kit lens and zoom. I had always been a part of the board community through surfing and skating (note that I’m only a wannabe skater). In my city, all the cool guys took pictures so it was something I wanted to do. I think, in general, that in surfing, skating, skiing and so on, documenting what you do and are up to is a huge part of the lifestyle. Following others and watching videos, articles and stuff is just a cool way to keep the sports and lifestyle progressing while inspiring one another.
Even though Denmark is so ideal for water sports, there was only a few at my school doing it when I was younger. I also used photography as a way to show how much fun we had, with the hope of getting more people into it. It was really hard for me to understand why so few took advantages of the great adventures and experiences we had right in our backyards. Everyone else was playing football, handball or videogames, but no one really knew what we were doing and what sailing and surfing were really about. I guess photography was a way to show them.
Later on, I used it a lot through my work in the mountains. I was documenting trips for personal use and for my company. It was also a way to show my family and friend’s home in Denmark what I was up to.
I have always had a great appreciation for nature and I enjoy being outside more than anything else. For me, surfing, skiing and mountain biking is basically about being outside and taking part in nature. I was never good at just standing on the side and watching nature. I want to be a part of it to feel its power and its greatness. I think photography does the same for me. It allows me to work with nature and immerse myself.
Today, photography has grown to be a way of life for me. I take my camera wherever I go and luckily it can provide for me.
My goal with photography is to combine landscape and action photography. I hope to travel the world and see amazing places and meet fantastic people, but mostly, I want to create pictures that will inspire people to enjoy our planet and take care of it.
Is there anyone or anything that inspires you in your work?
There are so many great photographers out there, it can sometimes overwhelm you. I have always been inspired by Chris Burkard as he is, without a doubt, one of the most talented landscapes and surf photographers of our time. He is also a great storyteller and has really worked out the part of social media and getting your material out there. The hardest part nowadays is to stand out and make yourself noticeable. Everyone is a photographer today with the great cameras coming out at low cost. This is great and has really pushed photography to insane levels, but it makes it hard to stand out. Chris really made everything happen for himself.
Other modern outdoor photographers I admire are Alex Strohl and Jimmy Chin. They are just the real deal. Alex is just living the real outdoor photographer life. Always on the road and taking epic pictures. Jimmy is not only a photographer but a world leading climbing athletes. I admire that more than anything else and the way he combines those two are a great inspiration to me.
Recently I’ve been studying the work of Ansel Adams and Fatali. They are the founders of the kind of photography that I’m passionate about and I’m pretty obsessed with the American national parks. I have only been to Oregon and Washington, but I hope to do a long road trip next summer and discover some of these amazing places. Finally, surf photographer Mickey Smith has always been a huge inspiration. His movie “Dark side of the lens” really captures everything I love about the North Atlantic and the roughness of our parts.
Why did you want to get involved with NV?
Roxanne reached out to me maybe a year or so ago, after one of my travels to the Lofoten Islands I think. As a photographer, you are always stoked when someone likes your work and wants to use it. I think the profile of NV fits great with mine as a North Atlantic photographer. I travel a lot between Canada, Norway and Denmark, so it is just a perfect match. NV and I started at kind of the same time so I think we saw the benefits of growing together and working together.
This interview is part of our series “The Annual 2017,” a series of articles that present each contributor of our first print issue through an interview.
Grab a copy to see Jakob’s work in the magazine!