Q&A - Karine Kong

Interview - Esker
Photos - Karine Kong Photography

After living in London, photographer, stylist, author of the blog www.bodieandfou.com 
Karine Kong divides her time between portrait and fashion photo shoots in
Paris & London & personal projects like "PEOPLE FROM THE SEA 
near the Atlantic Ocean where she now resides -


Hey Karine. We are loving your portraits from 'People from the Sea' what was your inspiration to start this project?

It's a bit of combo of life events really. After running a busy design concept store for 10 years in London (sold in January 2016), I wanted to give myself some kind of sabbatical year to focus on something purely creative rather than the next entrepreneurial project. 

However, 2016 turned out to be a tough year for my family.  My Dad and Aunt passed away in the space of two months and we lost two close ones later on that year so my "creative" sabbatical year got bumped up to the next level. That year became about taking the time to grieve, to deal with the pain, accept the loss and focus on the positive to move forward and grow. So work wise, I did the minimum to earn a living but I didn't push myself the way I normally do. I knew I would bounce back eventually and in the scheme of things/of life, taking one year off is nothing. More than anything, I wanted to re-connect with what I really love doing and achieve a better life balance, which clearly had been missing these past ten years. So I waited for things to come up to me. One thing that came up was photography. 

Katia © Karine Kong Photography, All Rights Reserved.jpg

When we moved by the sea in France, my daughter Mila and I joined surf club Ocean Roots and we started surfing twice a week. During times that were emotionally charged and challenging, surfing was the one thing that kept my head above the water...not literally because at the beginning, I spent more time in the water than on my board, actually I still do...who am I kidding!? :-) As I was getting such a feel-good, uplifting feeling from surfing, being in the ocean and being surrounded by people who clearly enjoyed what they were doing, I started an Instagram account to focus on this happy vibe and People From The Ocean was born.

Have you always had a passion for the Les Landes coast line?

I spent all my childhood holidays in Biscarrosse and Arcachon and I have very happy memories of us kids at the beach, jumping in the waves, the smell of pine trees, climbing and running down the Dune of Pyla, playing at the Club Mickey and my Grandmother treating us to an ice-cream each afternoon. Eventually my Mother retired in the area too and Steve and I decided to buy our holiday home there too so Mila could experience the kind of happy, carefree childhood I had.

Three years ago, we went in Les Landes (Cap-Breton) with my sister for two weeks on a surfing course, bumped into old friends and have been going back ever since. The year after we took friends from Paris with us and stayed in Seignosse and this year, we are five families in Hossegor. All our kids are about the same age and they are all into surfing & skating.

Is surfing something you have discovered recently or does it stem from your childhood connection to the coast?

I've always had friends who surfed but I had never tried. When I was a teenager, my dad was a windsurfer so I naturally followed his steps and windsurfed from the age of 14 until I went to Uni, trying to emulate Jenna de Rosnay (here is a flashback from the 80s!) We actually surfed in Devon the first time four years ago. We had spent a great weekend in a pod at the Loveland Farm but Sunday was very gloomy and wet. As there wasn't much to do in town, the owner suggested we go surfing. I remember not enjoying putting my wetsuit on or getting in the freezing water but then after 2 hours, we all felt completely excited. For me, it was a major breakthrough to have so much fun as a family in cold water. I was hooked!

The year after, we went on holidays to do a surfing course and the rest is history...I now surf twice a week from April to November. Mila surfed throughout the whole winter and I hugely admire her efforts and commitment, because in winter the water is extremely cold.

Katia III © Karine Kong Photography, All Rights Reserved.jpg

Why are you so drawn to surfing and its culture?

There are many things I feel drawn to. I love the connection with the ocean and each time, the colours, the energy are different. It's the only sport that will drive me into the water on an overcast day. I also like the physical and personal challenges. I started surfing at the age of 47 and at the beginning I was the only adult in a group with kids no older than 15 and who surfed very well. Believe me, I had a few moments of solitude wondering what on earth I was doing there...

I also like the spirit of the community. In all the surf clubs I have been, people have been kind, generous, giving. Our club Ocean Roots is a great example of this. This year, they organised a trip to Morocco to teach eleven kids to improve their surf but also to make them aware of the impact of pollution on the ocean and how their generation can make a difference. Next year, the trip will be to Bali and the third year maybe in Hawaii. In terms of personal experience, I can't think of a better way to teach something to children than through travelling, surfing and living with others for a while.

Florian © Karine Kong Photography, All Rights Reserved.jpg

Does the coastal environment have an influence on your interiors style?

I've always decorated my homes to have a holiday vibe but yes now that we live by the sea, I feel drawn even more to natural, relaxed interiors where we can walk barefoot and feel on holiday all year long. Mila's bedroom is decorated with a lot of surfing gear.

What made you decide to sell BODIE and FOU and spend more of your life by the ocean?

Steve is from New Zealand. When we met 20 years ago in London, we always said that we would spend some time in London and then move to Australia to be closer to his family. As our plan to move to Oz was becoming more real, I decided that it was time for me to turn the BODIE and FOU page. It was a stressful 10 years and I had no intention of taking that stress level to Oz. I wanted a fresh start. Before moving to the other side of the world, we decided that he and Mila would spend a year in France to experience the French lifestyle and I would travel back & forth while I was still running my business. 

Then two things happened, my dad died and Mila found her calling there. Between surfing, skating and living a more outdoor lifestyle, she didn't want to move anywhere and as I didn't want to leave my mum, we decided to stay in France a bit longer so that's where we are now for the time being. We are not ruling out Oz completely but have chosen to live here at the moment.

You are well travelled, what sort of traveller are you, organised or free to roam?

I don't organise my travels a lot. I travel light (clothes wise) and just make sure I have everything with me to work on the road: laptop, camera, tripod, charger, tickets, passport and then I improvise as I go along. Sometimes I wish I would organise my travels a bit more. Doing that would have saved us from being stranded a week in Singapore when we flew to Bali. Then again, we had a great time in Singapore and I want to teach Mila that Life is full of unexpected events and that your ability to cope with changes will allow you to move forward and cope with things.

How have you managed to balance your life with family, business, living and working in London and spending as much time as possible on the coast in France?

I'm mostly based in France now which I feel allows me to have a better balance and I travel to London & Paris when I have client meetings or photo shoots. As I'm a professional Blogger (www.karinecandicekong.com), I get to travel a fair amount in Europe. While I enjoy the vibes and energy from a big city, after a few months living by the sea, I can't see myself living anywhere else than at the beach now.

Life mantra?

"If you don't ask you don't get!"

Dallas IV © Karine Kong Photography, All Rights Reserved.jpg
Dallas III © Karine Kong Photography, All Rights Reserved.jpg

You can find more of Karine’s beautiful photographs here: www.karinecandicekong.com 

Small Gatherings