We’re sort of in the fifth great era of surfing – the era of short boards that resemble potato chips, of pro surfers banging out aerials left and right, and of an eternal, seemingly unstoppable increase in crowds. Beyond the sheer athleticism of great surfing, much of the beauty comes from its improbability – the surfer as an intrusion in a pure seascape, doing his best to master it. The conflicting images can exhilarate, even in Southern California where they are so commonplace.
For photographer Cory Patterson the camera needs to show when and where a surfer fits in, becoming a natural adjunct to the environment while dominating it. And Patterson’s new collaborative photo and art book, entitled Waves For Sale, being created with equally talented illustrator, Sean Bernhardt, combines surf-inspired illustrations and photos in a new and fresh form of surf art. Waves For Sale has the effect of a time capsule, bringing back images of Patterson’s prior surf trips in shades of color and black and white. However unlike the classic surf photography book, in some spreads Patterson’s images stand as the canvas for Bernhardt’s heavily inked illustrations of grim reaper types, snake-infested skulls, and evil-looking palm trees.
We had a chance to talk with Patterson about the inception of Waves For Sale, the creative chemistry between him and Bernhardt, and how the ocean acts as the incubator of his ideas.
Let’s start with the name of yours and Sean Bernhardt new project, “Waves for Sale,”what a great name. How did you come up with the title, where were you when it struck you?
I was in the water at County Line and thought it was a fun concept. I’ve had the name picked out for awhile, just been sitting on it. I like to do most of my thinking in the ocean. It seems to be the best place for me to use my brain.
Tell us a little about the book; it’s not just a straight up photography book, there will be tons of illustrations from Bernhardt throughout as well, right?
Yes. This is a photography/art book. I delivered Sean images from my body of work and he is coming up with his art and what he is thinking. There will be pages of my photography with his illustrations over it, as well as some pages with just my photography and some with just Sean’s art.
How did you decide you wanted to mix the two mediums – photography and illustration – for this project? What do you like about the combination, specifically having Bernhardt draw on your photos?
I’ve been thinking of doing a book like this for years and have been waiting for the right time, right place, and right artist. We mutually followed each other as artists. I feel like his body of work really fits with my brain and I wanted to smash our worlds together.
How much of surf photography is instinct and anticipation?
All of it.
What kind of photographs will we find in the book? All black & white? Some color?
You’ll find a wide range of photos, both black and white and color; taken from land and in water.
How did you curate the photographs that will go into the book? Are they all from a specific time period? location? surf trip?
They are from all over the place. Handpicked from the best of my body of work. Trying to visually see stuff before I hand it to Sean. We are still curating the book, because there are trips coming up that I really want to incorporate into it.
You must have thousands of surf photos, what is the hardest part about sorting, cutting down, and curating them?
There’s nothing hard about it at all. I enjoy going through each session and kind of reliving the moment, ya know. Plus, isn’t that what photography is all about?
Have you found that there’s some type of underlying theme(s) starting to develop as you piece together the book?
No, I don’t think that there’s really a theme, besides just making surf art. The whole project has just been developing naturally. Ya know, it all started over a surf session and a burrito, so what do you expect?
When and how did you first get into surf photography?
Man, as a photographer the ocean has always been a part of my body of work, so it just kind of happened. I just put my two passions together.
Have you and Bernhardt worked together or collaborated before? How did this artistic partnership come about?
No, never collaborated with him before. I’ve just been following him as an artist and really enjoy his work. He came out to California on a surf trip and here we are.
What are you shooting with the most these days?
I use the Canon family and my water rig is by Liquid Eye.
What’s your idea of the perfect surf photograph?
My idea of a perfect surf photograph is capturing everything in the moment. Not just hitting the maneuver, but also capturing the surroundings, to really make you feel like you’re there.
Favorite place to shoot in Southern California?
Wherever the waves are.