Design & Style
30 November 2020
Design & Style
30 November 2020
Odds are, you’ve seen Eugene Tan’s photography before. The founder of Aquabumps, who goes by the nickname ‘Uge’, is famous for his stunning aerial photographs of the world’s best beaches, though he is perhaps best known for his early-morning shots of his beloved Bondi Beach in action.
With the help of his wife and business partner Debbie, Uge recently showcased his work on a unique new canvas – the exterior of a Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC.
This collaboration will come as no surprise to fans of the Bondi couple, who are vocal about their love of nature and often showcase Uge’s close encounters with marine animals on the Aquabumps website. To promote awareness of sustainability, it made perfect sense to feature Uge's photography on the surface of the first all-electric Mercedes-Benz.
“For our kids and our planet and our future, sustainability is something that’s really important to Uge and I and our business,” explains Debbie. “One of the things that stood out to us when we were coming up with this idea was that almost 100 of the components that were produced for this vehicle have come from renewable sources – things such as hemp, wool and natural rubbers. We really admire the innovation, design and technology involved. Aquabumps and Mercedes might be very different businesses, but we pride ourselves on those same things.”
“I’m fascinated by any technology that lets us live more sustainably,” Uge adds. “The car is a rocket ship by the way. I had no clue, in terms of how far it could go, but honestly, it’s much faster than a normal petrol car.”
To execute their project, a wrap featuring the aerial photograph Tinnies was plastered over the surface of the EQC. Uge then photographed the vehicle around Bondi and nearby Clovelly to demonstrate how nature and the future of the car could come together.
He chose Tinnies, which features Bondi beachgoers lazing on the rocks and blue boats, because it’s unusually textured and not what you would expect to see on a car. It certainly catches your eye when you look at the vehicle from above at Clovelly Beach – the jagged rocks that appear on the roof make the car resemble a striking new landform.
In conceiving their idea, Uge and Debbie took inspiration from Mercedes-Benz’s long history with the art world. Since 1977, Daimler has collaborated with artists on works that are inspired by, or respond to, the design of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. These pieces are available to view online and in person at Daimler’s headquarters in Berlin as part of the Daimler Art Collection. “One of the biggest artists Mercedes ever worked with was Andy Warhol, who did a series in 1986 called Cars where he painted historic models like the 300SL coupe,” Debbie says. “That gave us the idea to wrap the new EQC with one of Uge’s images.”
Innovations like this have been a driving force behind Uge’s success with Aquabumps. After forging a comfortable career as a creative director in graphic design, he became fascinated by digital photography and blogging well before either medium went mainstream. Bored with the corporate aspects of his role, he started taking daily photos of Bondi Beach for fun and sharing them with his friends through an email newsletter. His following grew – and grew.
“As it went on, I decided to quit my day job,” he recalls. “That was 21 years ago, and I’ve been doing it full time since. Now we sell our art through our own gallery and ship to people all around the world.”
It was through the Aquabumps gallery that Uge met Debbie, who wandered in one day to enquire about his largest artwork. Like Uge, Debbie came from the advertising world, though her background was in account services. “I was sales director for six years at Harper’s Bazaar, so I had worked in branding, sales and the commercial side of creative,” she says.
It became clear they complemented each other professionally but, Debbie jokingly adds, the working relationship came second. “I met Uge, got the picture, we fell in love, and then we had two children. And when I saw that the business was growing, I made the call that it lent itself to my skill set.”
With Debbie on board, the pair have launched collaborations with Speedo, The Australian Ballet and Canon, among others. Currently, they’re planning a major exhibition with Cape Mentelle to celebrate the Margaret River winery’s 50th anniversary. And now that interstate travel is back on the cards, Uge’s aerial photography will lure you to Sydney courtesy of a campaign with Destination NSW.
While there, make sure to stop by the Aquabumps gallery in Bondi, where Uge won’t hesitate to wax lyrical about the beach that made him famous. “There’s always something to shoot around here – it’s a very unpredictable and entertaining place,” he says. “One day you might get a huge whale in the bay. The other morning, I had a pod of dolphins circling me out in the surf. That’s pretty amazing for a beach that’s like eight kilometres from the city.”
Aquabumps Gallery is at 151 Curlewis St, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026.
By Emily Tatti