Chuck Schmid is a surf photographer with a portfolio of images that reflect a life-long passion for the craft. He has embraced animated web technologies and is creating mesmerising surf sequences that you just can’t stop watching. Chuck graces this surfd.com exclusive both with a selection of his work and his story. Enjoy.
I was born in Germany in 1955. My Dad was in the military and the family moved so often that the question, “where you from?” didn’t make any sense. Do you mean “where we from last?” We moved to California for the second time in 1966. Walking home from school, I’d pass a neighbor’s house that surfed and had a big collection of surf magazines. I’d hang out in his garage and study the magazines. It was a peek into another world. Surfing was an underground activity and far outside the mainstream. You’d see a photo of someone surfing and you wanted to be there and do that so badly.
In 1969, my Dad was serving in Viet Nam and our family flew to Hawaii for R&R leave and I surfed for the first time on a rental board from Fort DeRussy. Their rental boards were made in hobby shops on base and had Fort DeRussy US Army logos laminated on the deck. At the time, the was a big rift between the military and the general public over the unpopular war in Viet Nam and the surfers were among the most extreme in opposing the military, so there was a bit of irony that somebody in the army was shaping and glassing boards. In the era before leashes, it took longer to learn to surf because each attempt to catch a wave and get to your feet was followed by a long swim. Our mother tried to insure that we kids didn’t miss out on anything while our father was at war and did her best to support our endeavors.
In 1971, I broke my arm playing football and couldn’t surf for five months. I bought a 400mm Vivitar lens at K-Mart for $60 and started shooting surf photos. Surf photos weren’t as common as they are today and few surfers had photos of themselves surfing. I tried to emulate the photos in the magazines and to capture that yearning for “being there and doing that.” Because of the dearth of photographers and complexities of shooting film, the surf magazines were more approachable than they are now and would make suggestions to help you take photos that they could use. Eventually, a few of my photos were published and I pursued that goal until the frustration of diminishing returns and the constraints of growing up overshadowed the joy of shooting photos. I sold most of my gear and doubled down on my paying jobs.
In 2005, my wife started shooting digital photos. She had been writing and recording music and went from sitting at the computer for hours doing post production on her songs to spending hours processing her photos. It wasn’t long before I took the digital camera to the beach to see how that whole autofocus deal worked. In the years that had elapsed, the golden age of magazines was over, the internet was omnipresent and the proliferation of digital photos was such that everyone was shooting photos of everything all the time. Photography had changed but more importantly, the way we see photos had changed. Photography once was a quaint mixture of art and science and just as the leash had flattened the learning curve for surfing, the instant feedback and unlimited results from digital photography had simplified photography for the masses. Soon the digital world had engulfed the physical world and of course, when there is a wealth of data there is a poverty of attention. Out of 380 billion photos taken in the past year, how many are worth a second look?
Discover more of Chuck’s work and connect with him at the following links.