Interview : Jianca Lazarus
issue two : from the water's depth
Jianca Lazarus was born and raised in South Africa. After moving from Johannesburg to Cape Town as a child, Jianca discovered the joy of the ocean, which has resulted in a life-long love affair.
She picked up her first camera at 16 and began documenting the local surf scene. After finishing high school, Jianca left for that‘Big ‘Ol Apple,’ NYC – where she found work in the film and events industry, allowing her a different space in which to develop her photography skills.
Despite being a wanderer of the world, the ocean has been a bedrock for her, regardless of where she might rest her head.
She now splits her time between Hawaii and NYC but continues to travel the world, documenting different cultures for numerous clients, but most importantly for us – she continues to capture the water’s depth.
Her love of adventure, thirst for life and passion for the water made it an easy choice to interview her for this issue; From the Water's Depth. Jianca also shot our exclusive underwater editorial with untainted beauty, Kimi Werner.
Q: When did you start shooting underwater?
I remember starting to notice the way sunlight mixed with water. The way it shifted the elements and refracted the colours so differently. It even changed depending on the time of day or how hot or cold it was. I would buy disposable underwater cameras because I couldn’t afford a professional camera or water housing. But does it really matter what you capture visual stories with? I personally believe it’s what your eye sees and how you frame it off, and how that visual journey continues beyond just that split second that you just physically captured - and let your mind continue with the story emotionally.
At a point, my friend James saw what I was doing and re-gifted me his bright canary yellow Sports Minolta Weathermatic Dual35 Waterproof Point and Shoot camera, and his medium format black Holga that had duct tape all over the camera to prevent light leaks. Like, you know, when the tape becomes so old it's started disintegrating but everything is so sticky and gooey that you can't even remove the old tape to re-tape it? Yeah...that was it! Gems, complete gems! He pushed me to be where my unconditional love was. Photographing the ocean. I was 21 years old.
Q: What skills did you have to acquire to become an underwater photographer?
Patience. It's one the biggest skills I have had to learn for being an underwater photographer. I still am learning how to patient if I am honest. There’s no room for expectation, especially when shooting out in the ocean, because it’s constantly changing. You cross your fingers that your instincts will kick in and what you get will be what you want to present. I move slowly in the ocean because most times my mind is racing - moving so fast- to get that specific shot and because I am juggling the ocean current, my breathe, 10 pounds of equipment, aperture and focus control, all while trying to swim and maintain a level of energy. If you're not careful and focused, mistakes can happen. You need to be strong in this job, so I try to be in the best shape I can. Sometimes I am treading water for 3 to 4 hours at a time, which is very tiring. I train between shoots to keep my fitness levels up. I go running and swimming a lot. I have also had to learn how to hold my breath for long periods, so I practice my breath holds with free dives (no tank). I've had to learn to be patient with my body too.
Q: What has been the highlight of your photography career?
That's a hard question really. Obviously, the big paying jobs in exotic destinations are great, but honestly, there are times when I am by myself, not getting paid, and I will just be walking around with camera attached to the hip and I will stumble upon a story. That sends my mind and heart soaring. It’s the best day ever. Every single time it happens. There are too many to highlight.
Q: What does untainted beauty mean to you?
Untainted beauty, for me, is a beauty that pours from within, not by material attraction or attachment. Present yourself as you are. As you feel, true and honest.
Q: What are your personal beauty practices?
I believe that beauty comes from within, and taking care of myself is key. I start with eating well and exercising regularly. I have been told we are what we eat, which is great because I really love good, wholesome food! I have also heard, that if you're worried about what you're putting into you, you should be thinking about what you are putting on you. So I take care of the 'outside' by using a mixture of organic oils from dōTerra, every day. They really seem to help with the hydration of my skin, which can get very dry from being in the salt water so much.
Some of my favourite oils are rosehip fruit oil, evening primrose oil, jojoba oil, coriander oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil.
I just stick to coconut oil for my body. Cheap, simple and it does the trick!
To protect my skin from the sun when I am out in the water - or just out and about - I use Avasol (for my face) and AETHIC Sôvèe (for my body). They are both scientifically proven to be eco-compatible and therefore do not destroy my beloved ocean's marine life or live coral, while still protecting my skin. I am in the ocean 90% of the time, so while I need to protect my fair skin from the sun, I also need to do my bit to protect the ocean's life from toxic chemicals that are found in conventional sunscreens. To be honest, I hardly use makeup. Whenever I do, it spends more time on my clothes than it does on my face!
Q: You co-found A not-for-profit foundation; Changing Tides Foundation. can you tell us a little more about what inspired you to start this wonderful organisation?
Changing Tides Foundation was born from the simple idea that the world would be a better place if we were all given the opportunity to give back. Travel with purpose. Established in 2016, by an incredible group of water women and adventurers. Over the years we and quite independently, all realised that we had a calling to help others. Especially in the places that we travelled to.
For me, it started when I was on a surf trip to Costa Rica with a friend of mine. It rained for 9 days straight, causing floods everywhere. The water was the colour of chocolate, and usually when the water is like that we don’t surf because we can get sick. So we decided to go check out the nearby towns and see what was going on. It was a disaster! Despite knowing that El Salvador was pumping with beautiful waves up north, we just couldn’t fly out. So we stayed. We got to this little town just outside Playa Hermosa, near Jaco and there were people pulling their belongings out of their homes. Their homes were destroyed by flooding and mudslides. Mud to the roof of people's cars, mud to the door handles in people's homes. So with the little Spanish we knew, we offered our help. We may have just been two people, but we got cracking and started pushing mud out of peoples homes with whatever we could find on the street or things that had drifted by in the flood waters.
At the end of the day, we worked on two people's homes, and with what little food they had, they shared with us. They couldn’t speak English and we could barely speak Spanish, but we communicated with ease. We ate, we used universal hand signs to communicate, we laughed, we cried, my heart soared and the best part is that we remain friends to this day.
Through my travels, I have had the privilege to meet many like-minded people, and some of those people have become my co-founders in CTF. We knew that even if it would take years to effect great change, that by doing our bit when and where we could, we were making a difference. Turns out that things have moved faster than we could have ever imagined, and strangers are joining our cause on a daily basis. It is so empowering, and it means we are able to do more good work in the communities that need help. We've started teaming up with grassroots organisations around the world to raise awareness about the environment and address social, environmental, health and safety concerns in the places we visit. We currently have three active projects in Mexico, Sri Lanka and Bocas Del Toro.
Want to learn more about the Changing Tides Foundation, and how you can join them or donate?