Surf Shacks 067

Cole Barash
Cape Cod, MA

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In this digital age where everyone seems to be a professional photographer, it is difficult to find work that is truly unique. This is of course a subjective opinion, but I say it because through all the usual picturesque imagery that floods our feeds daily, I’ve always been in awe and inspired by the work of Cole Barash and consider him an original. All the equipment and software tools can never compensate for artistic vision, concept, an eye for subtleties and something different. Aside from being an accomplished photographer though, Cole is also a committed surfer and we are proud to have a visual documentarian like him in our tribe. Here is a look inside his quaint home and studio in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a visual-based artist. I work between a few different mediums of photography, collage and embroidery.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the Northeast (Vermont), then I moved out west when I was 16 and ended up coming back east to live in New York eight years later. I’m now based six months a year on Cape Cod and six months out of Rhode Island and NY.

How long have you lived here in Cape Cod and what drew you to the area in the first place?

Honestly, it’s the only place that has felt truly home to me since I was 15. We first started coming here when I was born, then each year for one week long vacation which was our big trip for the year as a fam. Then I migrated down there each summer starting when I was 15 staying in Uncle Bill’s guest room. Then it became part of me and I will forever spend time there for the rest of my life. It’s an incredible place with incredible people.

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How did you first get into photography?

When I was 13, I picked up my dad’s AE1 and started cruising with it. Haven’t looked back since.

When did it go from a hobby to a career for you?

I think like 16 or maybe 17? I was living in Mammoth with a bunch of other young snowboarders and we would grind pretty hard each day to go out and get shots. I then got offered a contract from Forum Snowboards to be the principle photog for them — which basically meant traveling around the world on the hunt for snow with their team. Those definitely were some of the best times of my life, but a lot of hard, cold, long days making something out of nothing.

What have been some of the biggest challenges so far in being an artist versus only a commercial photographer?

Honestly, both are hard, but I think committing your life to making work and standing behind it is maybe harder. When someone hires you for a commercial job, it’s hard work sometimes, but it’s also so based on communication and just making shit look good (in a lot of different ways). You are focused much more technically and treat it as a professional service with the end goal of checking all the boxes that are clearly laid out for you. With making work (art), not only is it hard to consistently believe in yourself and have to not be scared of putting your work out, it’s also hard to try to go truly in your own direction to say something through tangible objects or visuals. There are no boxes to check, which is the best, but also sometimes the worst — and hardest. But then again, that’s what makes it addicting. The more mistakes I make and fuck ups I have, I realize the most important thing is to just stick to your guns. If you feel it and are solid on it, then it goes.

On the flip side, what have been the greatest successes so far?

I think in a traditional form, having an exhibition at museum of Iceland felt pretty rad. Or a book I recently made, Smokejumpers, is now part of the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) library. Or on a different level, maybe a success of feeling hyped on a collaboration of a project with someone. I made a project called, Talk Story, a series of photographs into a book about the North Shore of Oahu that was anchored around John John Florence. To see someone be involved with that like him — and then have a good time doing it, felt good as well.

What have been some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

Maybe this project, Grimsey, which was a book and later an exhibition about an island north of Iceland, 6km long with 95 people inhabiting it. As that was my first serious body of work combined with it being such a bizarre yet beautiful place and community that ended up being pretty interesting. Smokejumpers, involved spending time with wildfire fighters and getting to completely take my own vision into which was amazing to get access to as well.

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What are your favorite parts about Cape Cod and the area in which you live?

The land and the sea. In Wellfleet, it’s a small fishing town way out on the end that is made up of 70% national sea shore (national park). It makes it truly on of the most amazing most beautiful places I have been. It’s got an amazing mixture of rawness, tradition, light, and space. Not to mention the waves can fuckin pump when it’s on. Or you can sit for weeks — ha.

Any local recommendations?

BOL, is my wife’s cafe, which is an organic açaí bowl and smoothie shop. I am all about Sam’s Deli (best sandos), or Macs Shack, which has amazing seafood.

What are your favorite parts of your home?

Probably all the huge beaches surrounded by 500 foot dunes or the glacier ponds in the woods just a mile from the beach. They make for epic swims and hangs after the beach or a surf.

What’s it like being a surfer in New England?

I think probably two things: you learn to appreciate things and you learn dedication. Which are honestly two good things I believe at least to have in life. When it’s on, you go. When it’s half on, you go. When it’s anything but flat, you go — because that’s all you got. Just like the weather; any sunny day you are outside. You also learn to deal with the elements. If it’s freezing rain, or snowing, or blowing hard outta the North East, you kinda just suck it up and go. Or you adapt so you can enjoy it and get the right gear.

What is your favorite season up there?

Autumn or summer. Hmmm… Autumn because the light changes, the tourists leave and the colors come as sometimes the waves do as well. Summer because it’s like you’re in the Kauai — beach vibes all day, surfing or cruising or BBQs, or just being outside all day. It’s tough to pick one, but I think by the time fall is here I’m ready for that change. Seasons are a necessity to me I think.

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What got you into surfing in the first place?

Probably my friends. I was pretty hooked at like age 12 and have kept it a part of my life heavily since. When I’m home, our life definitely revolves heavily around the forecast; waves, snow or weather as we both like to enjoy it all.

What projects are you working on these days?

I’m working on a project currently called, The Sound of Dawn. This is a conversation of imagery about form — mostly from human form to forms in nature. This work is made up of photographs, Japanese paper and sewing yarn.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?

Be humble, work hard, and enjoy.

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Discover more creative surfers’ homes in our book, “Surf Shacks®”


Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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