Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, December 7, 2001

Art Brewer's book is a chronicle of classic moments involving surfers and surfing, such as the 1983 shot above of Rory Russell in Morocco.

Master photographer

Catches surf masters

By Tim Ryan

Sometimes the cliché is wrong, and, in fact, you can judge a book by its cover. Such is the case with "Masters of Surf Photography: Art Brewer" (Surfer's Journal, $350 pages, $65 in regular edition and $125 limited edition).

The cover is of a stereotypical blond, bushy-haired surfer sitting astride his well-used bright orange surfboard under a setting tropical sun, capturing in a single frame the image of wave riders throughout the world.

Brewer is the dean of active American surf photographers whose skill over the last three decades in lighting and studio strategies has placed him well above his peers.

Shane Dorian in a 1998 photo. Brewer's in town to sign copies of his book tomorrow and Sunday.

There was a time when all you needed to get your surf pic published was a bazooka-length lens and an image that showed someone on a wave. Not anymore.

Check out the beaches at Pipeline, Sunset or Rocky Point during a swell, and the sand is lined with 20-something wannabes using $20,000 in state-of-the-art equipment. They're pretty much guaranteed a beautiful shot, but so are the guys standing next to them.

Brewer has a secret weapon: lighting. Whether shooting a surfer on a wave or a portrait, Brewer uses light like the great masters of photography who came before him.

To call "Masters of Surf Photography" a collection of surfing pictures would be a disservice. It is, in fact, several things.

Book signings


What: "Masters of Surf Photography: Art Brewer"

When and where: 2 to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Russ K Boardriders Club, 1714 Kapiolani Boulevard; and 4 to 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Board Room, Ward Entertainment Center, 310 Kamakee St., Suite 8. Also noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Northshore Boardriders Club, 66-250 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa; and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Haleiwa Joe's, 66-011 Kamehameha Highway.

The surf shots are what they are supposed to be: tack sharp, peak action, perfect composition, but also inspirational.

Portraits of the world's greatest wave riders since 1969 show surfers in their most relaxed realm -- the ocean -- but also show them in hotel rooms, sitting on the beach, traveling and contemplating.

An exuberant Brock Little (1991) is seen in his bedroom surrounded by surfboards; a seemingly uninterested Jeff Hakman in 1970 is given a koa bowl filled with 1,000 dollar bills after winning the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational; Jock Sutherland is shown on a small plane en route to Maui's Honolua Bay in 1972.

"Masters" also is a pleasant journey down memory lane for those '60s wave riders who will remember numerous timeless shots featured in major surf publications: Barry Kanaiaupuni's bottom turn in 1971 at Sunset Beach that set the standard for such maneuvers; Billy Hamilton's fin-exposed cutback at Pupukea in 1969; a reclusive George Greenough sneaking past the camera lens in 1978 in Australia; and several shots of a "Mr. Pipeline" Gerry Lopez in total control at the feared North Shore spot, gliding along massive swells like a ballet dancer.

Then there's the "fine art" section, beginning with a shot of a lone big-wave board standing delicately on its pointed tail in wet sand before a setting sun.

It seems fitting the last shot features several classic moments of surf, land and sea: In the distance a lone surfer rides a perfect wave at Yokahama Bay; the long sand beach near Kaena Point is pretty much deserted; and Hawaii waterman and environmentalist John Kelly, 80-plus years, standing trim, tall and strong, staring at his younger counterpart.

The closing page says "All Pau for Now." We can only hope that Brewer isn't pau.

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