Alan Van Gysen is a surf photojournalist. You can follow his work at @alanvangysen
What do I do best?
I do best at being myself. The person God is refining me to be. Sometimes I’m better at it than other times. Sometimes I’m worse it it than other times. But the reassuring thing is I know who I am and whom I being moulded to be. As an African surf photojournalist I am in a unique position to meet a lot of different people from all walks of life, and to share their real, honest and special stories from life in Africa; and to shine a light and bring some salt into this fallen and broken world. Photography isn’t so much about taking a photograph than it is engaging the people and places in them.
What makes me the best version of myself?
God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit. And my family. I’m nothing without them, and the worst version of myself when I forget this or when life gets so frantic I run ahead without them. I also think I’m the best version of myself when I’m helping, serving and thinking of others first through the gifts/talents I’ve been given - surfing and photography.
What are my aspirations?
At the end of my earthly life I want to be able to look back and know that I was a good husband, father and steward of the gifts/talents given to me. And ultimately at the end of my sojourn here to have Our Father say that I ran the race well, and that I made Him proud. “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” - C. S. Lewis
My biggest successes?
I don’t measure successes as the world does, but I have been blessed with everything I ever prayed for. For me it’s not about the material, but the eternal. As someone much wiser than I once said, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” - Forest E. Witcraft
My biggest successes to date have been that of being a husband, a steward (father) to three beautiful, inspirational children and realising at 18 that I wasn’t in control of my own life. Not in anyway, and that I needed help.
My most challenging moment?
My most challenging moment in my life was right before I was saved. I was 18 years old and in my final year of high school. Life was a constant challenge. My family was broken - my mother, my father, my three younger sisters and I, mostly due to my father being diagnosed with primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at age 23. The disease/terminal condition took it’s toll mentally and spiritually on our family as slowly and deeply as it did physically on my father. I was two when they found out, and when all their hopes and dreams of a healthy, functional family life started crumbling down. Fast forward to 18, and the walls were long gone and the foundation was severely cracked. I shared a room with my father to help him get through the difficult, long nights of pain, discomfort and incontinence; my sister weren’t strong enough to help physically, and my mom and dad were no longer partners, despite never getting formally divorced. The stress and pressure on me was overwhelming - final school exams, home life, an uncertain future - everything, and the devil knew it and took full advantage of my vulnerability. I fell it deep depression and couldn’t get through an hour in the day without the darkness flooding in. Not even sleep could block it. I tried counselling. I tried distraction. Nothing seemed to help. I wrestled inside myself, by myself. I didn’t have anyone I could rely on or confide in. And then I started to pray. I prayed day and night. I prayed without ceasing. And then one night, while on my knees with my hands clasped white together in anguished prayer, Gods graceful hand touch my shoulder and said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Immediately the very weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders, and the darkness was banished from my heart, mind and soul. I was literally saved. I can’t explain it better. I was blind, and then I could see. I was lost and then I was free. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without His love and grace that day.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” - Jesus.
My favourite people/role models?
Jesus Christ. If you had to read all the biographies of every favourite and worthy role model ever to have lived, I know with all certainty that Jesus Christ would stand above them all as far and high as earth is from the heavens.
My favourite places/destinations?
Africa is my favourite place on earth, and it’s people and places the destinations I long to visit and see. I can’t quite explain why, but it’s in my heart, and my heart is in it. Some people may say I look like a European or Westerner, but I was born and raised in Africa, and I don’t know any other home but Africa. I love Africa. I am African, despite my skin colour.
My favourite products/objects?
My favourite products and physical objects are those that add value to my life. My bible first and foremost. The home my family and I built. The camera I shoot with. The water housings that keep said camera safe. The surfboard collection I ride. Vivobarefoot minimalist shoes for everything from running to hiking to traveling. SurfEars ear plugs to keep my surfers ear at bay. My iPhone which keeps my family and I connected while I travel. Things like these. Things that add value.
My current passions?
I’m passionate about my faith. I’m passionate about my family. I’m passionate about people, surfing, photography, and Africa.