I’m sure most photographers have aspirations of where they’d love to see their work published, exhibited or collected. For me that included The Surfer’s Journal (TSJ), a fine-art quality, very respected publication that’s printed bi-monthly, has minimal commercial ads and dwells deeply into photography, journalism, culture and art. Every issue is an inspiration and often leaves me wondering if my work is worthy of its highly, thought-out pages.
At times I would submit recently photographed images and would receive a “thank you for thinking of us” response but nothing more. Still, I could not, would not, give up and tried again. This time I decided to show the editors a retrospective of my career in surf and travel photography and came up with the idea of two simultaneous submissions broken down into the two discernable paths of my career; one of the early days when film was the only available medium and two from the more recent digital eras.
Deciding on which images to submit from both eras was not easy, each epoch spanning more than twenty years. Surf related images would take center stage but during my travels in search of waves I’ve always ventured outside the surf zone and decided to include many of the non-surfing images. In the end it may have been these images that grabbed the attention of the editors.
Initial reaction from the photo editor, Grant Ellis, elicited a positive response which gave me hope, though I quickly curtailed my expectations knowing how tough the competition for editorial space is. It may have been six months later when I heard from Matt Shaw. Matt, a freelance writer, phoned saying he had been asked by the TSJ to write an article about my career in surf photography. He requested an interview both on the phone and in person to which I quickly agreed.
Another six months went by after my interviews with Matt without further news of a pending article and I started to wonder if it would really happen. Once, during this lull, I contacted Matt to ask if he had heard anything but he reminded me that these things can take time and that the queue is long. After a while, though, I honestly began to think the story was scratched.
Then one day, maybe a couple of months later, Matt called and asked if I had seen the latest issue, I said I hadn’t but knew right away what that meant! I couldn’t believe it and ran outside to see if the mailman had delivered the mail. He had and there it was! I was nervous and excited and wanted to tear into it right away, though this was too big a deal to do it alone and waited for my wife to come home.
One thing I should note is that neither my wife, nor our kids or anyone else had an inclination of the pending article. I was too superstitious to ever mention the notion that TSJ was publishing my work. So, when she arrives, I tell her that I received the new issue of TSJ and asked if she would like to look at it with me. I often shared articles with her, especially those relating to art, so this was nothing out of the ordinary. We start flipping the pages when half way through there it is, except my wife doesn’t realize what she’s looking at until the second spread when suddenly it hits her that it’s my work that she’s looking at! As excited as she became outwardly, I was more so inwardly. And as we s-l-o-w-l-y turn the pages we kept waiting for the article to end, which it did of course, but not until we had gone through 24 pages in all! We were left speechless. Never had I imagined having an article written about me and my photography showcased in TSJ, let alone a spread of this length.
The day Matt called with news of the article he suggested that before reading his words I read the linear notes at the back of the magazine written by the editor, Alex Wilson. In it Alex writes, “The quality and quantity of his output—and the places and decades it bridges—are remarkable, which is why we gave his submission more than 20 pages, and why his images could have soaked up another 20 without difficulty.”
Honored, humbled, proud and even validation is what I felt for the recognition of four decades I spent documenting the ocean and lifestyle that surrounds it. Though I dreamt of someday seeing my work in the pages of TSJ, it was never my motivation for traveling and shooting. That motivation came from deep within and was never commercialized. Had it been I would have stopped shooting a long time ago. Furthermore, nothing in life happens without the guidance from the Man above, my family that has supported me through thick and thin, and from the hundreds of friends met along the way that allowed me to share in their life’s. Thank you, The Surfer’s Journal, for bringing light to everyone.