Stab Magazine | Stop Getting Screwed: Art Brewer Wants To Teach You The Biz Of Surf Photography

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Stop Getting Screwed: Art Brewer Wants To Teach You The Biz Of Surf Photography

Here’s how you can join the iconic lensman in Salina Cruz. 

style // May 10, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Nobody really showed me how to do it. I had to figure a lot of this out on my own. A lot of trial and error,” says Art Brewer of his prolific photography career.

“Now I have an opportunity to teach some young, aspiring, creative photographers everything I’ve learned and I’m really enjoying it,” he continues.

Art was the heir to Ron Stoner’s throne when John Severson was looking for a new staff photographer for Surfer Magazine back in the early ‘60s. Art grew up in Laguna Beach capturing surfing’s early golden era and then ran with a nuts pack that seems more the stuff of legend than reality. Blitzing South Africa with Bunker Spreckels. Roaming Morocco with Rory Russell. Antarctic adventures with Chris Malloy. He’s been moving the surf world with his photography for upwards of 50 years. 

In his formative years, Brewer spent time in Yosemite studying with Ansel Adams. His work has gone virtually everywhere, from surf mags of yesteryear to men’s magazines like Maxin and Esquire and big budget clients like Nike, Pepsi and Sony. 

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A full headed Kelly Slater in Honolulu.

“I’ve been fortunate,” he confirms, “but it’s not all luck. Photography’s not luck. There’s a lot that goes into it that people don’t always see when they look at an image.”

In recent years, Brewer, along with co-collaborators JP Van Swae and Joanna Miriam Valente, have teamed up with the School of Visual Arts in New York City to offer workshops in the dark, sometimes thankless, art of surf photography.

“I had to figure so much of it out on my own when I was young, when this opportunity came up I saw it as a great chance to share everything I’ve learned over the years and help those aspiring photographers not just take better photos, but also how to manage the other aspects of the profession,” tells Brewer from his Dana Point studio.

Some years back, Brewer was in New York giving a slideshow in a space right next to Carnegie Hall. A few months later he got a phone call from Malcolm Lightner at the School of Visual Arts inquiring if he’d be interested in putting a workshop together. Brewer then reached out to Van Swae and Miriam Valente, who also live in Dana Point and have spent considerable time working and training under him. Collectively, they hosted their first workshop in Puerto Rico. It was a smash success. In subsequent years they’ve landed in Bali and Nicaragua.

09 053 Indo 37 0168 1 2 3 tonemapped

Kelly Slater to John Florence to Tom Curren, Joel Tudor, Occy, Rabbit, Buttons, Andy… there’s not a big name in surfing from the 60s ’till now that hasn’t been stuck in time via Art’s lens.

“This year we’re going to Salina Cruz in Mexico,” says Brewer. “We try to go to locations that provide great waves, but also are rich in culture and have a lot of other aspects that makes for interesting subject matter. We also team up with surf talent that can provide the photographers with the surf action. Whether it’s shooting water or from land, or pulled back lineups, or whatever, we try and provide a lot of eye candy to encourage creativity.” 

Home to some of North America’s best sand-bottom right points, Punta Conejo Surf Camp will play host to the week-long workshop from August 12-17. And while a lot of the inspiration behind the curriculum is inspired by surf, it’s not strictly for aspiring surf photographers. 

“One of the things that was really important to me when we were putting this together was to make sure that our students left with a comprehensive understanding of the photography business,” explains Brewer. “We go over trademarking images and how to protect your rights as a photographer. We talk about the importance of making connections and how all of that works in relation to getting your images used in magazines or commercial projects.”

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There will be none of this in Salina Cruz but it came in our batch of images to run along with this promotional material. We felt it rude not to share.

“JP and Joana both bring a lot of experience and expertise to the table and together we’re able to make this a really all-encompassing week of study and work,” continues Brewer. “In some instances, we have students from around the world coming back for multiple workshops because we’re able to provide them with all of this important information that isn’t readily available and they don’t teach you in school.”

While it’s still three months away, Brewer’s workshop fills up quick. There are still a handful of spaces left in the five-day course, but he cautions that anybody that’s interested in getting involved do so sooner rather than later. All you have to do is get yourself there and Brewer and company handle the rest. 

“The tuition covers the workshop, a stay at Punta Conejo, meals, guides and all that stuff. We make sure all of the details are ironed out before we go so we can make sure everything goes smoothly when we’re there and we can really focus our time and energy on getting work done,” says Brewer.

We’re living in an image-based world and for those that are keen to make the most of that fact and still keep their feet in the sand, a sprint down to Salina Cruz with Brewer could well be worth the time and expense. 

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Barry Kanaiaupuni, one of the original Hawaiian power surfers, bending foam at Haleiwa.

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