A Nostalgic Photo Exhibit From Two Iconic Surf Documentarians
Art Brewer and Jeff Divine reveal their favorite surf+cultural moments in an LA showcase.
Art Brewer and Jeff Divine. The two were the premiere documentarians during arguably the most interesting and most hazy time in surfing. With non-digital cameras they brought the culture to life on the pages of Surfer Magazine from the ‘70s onward.
When Surfer’s original photo editor and savant, Ron Stoner, went walkabout and literally fell off the map, publisher/editor John Severson called in Art to fill the void. (Stoner began to struggle with mental health issues in the early ‘70s, was filed as a ‘missing person’ in 1977 and finally declared dead in 1996…but that’s another story.) Art was shooting bits and pieces of surfy stuff in Laguna Beach at the time and was lured in by Severson’s promise of a steady paycheck. Divine began his surfing and shooting careers in La Jolla before landing at Surfer.
They’re a bit like the odd couple of surf photography. Art is a big, grizzly bear kind of guy whose photo assistant once printed tee shirts that read, “Art Brewer hates me.” Very apropos for those who have ever been late on an invoice. Jeff has more of an “aw shucks” way about him and goes more with the flow.
Their respective archives are vast and deep. From Lightning Bolts to Bunker, Laird to Kelly, not only have they shot everybody everywhere, but they got the nitty gritty stories to go with the images.
“Landing in London, Bunker knew that Steve Miller and his band was over there,” recalled Art when Stab sat down with him to talk all things Bunker Spreckels. “Steve was a friend of his from L.A., and Pink Floyd was playing with him out in the countryside at this music festival. So, we took a limo out there and visited with Steve as he was doing his sound check. The guys from Pink Floyd were hanging around. It was a good start to the trip, but also a good indication that things might get weird.”
Get weird indeed. Art’s trip to South Africa with Bunker was soon to become the stuff of legend.
Jeff didn’t get quite as lost in the gonzo surf travel, but he did his time. He’s spent nearly 40 winters on the North Shore. Spanning decades and generations, after he left Surfer he served time as the Photo Editor for The Surfer’s Journal.
One time, somewhere around 2012, a big-wave rider from Hawaii rang him and had some shots he wanted to run in the mag. The photos of were of the surfer going left at Waimea. He wanted to get two or three spreads out of the shots. Somewhat unimpressed, Divine was willing to give him a spread, so the surfer decided to shop the photos around to other publications.
“I’ve got shots of Booby Jones going left at Waimea from ’78, that’s nothing new,” he chided.
The point of this ramble is that Brewer and Divine have a photography show together at Alchemy Works in Los Angeles. The show’s opening and reception is on October 3rd at 7pm. If you’re in the area, you should go. The photos won’t fail to inspire and wish you were a surfer in the ’70s…and you can probably ply a story or two out of the two old GOATS.
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