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Jens Rasmussen
(Thursday) 8.12.10

Anthony Ghiglia Interview

So how did you get your start in photography?

I’ve had a fascination with photography for as long as I can remember. I was always the kid shooting photos of my friends launching off of street ramps that we built from “left over” construction site wood.  When I was about 13 my mother gave me a Yashica point and shoot camera for my birthday.  I remember everything just looked different through the camera lens than it did with the naked eye.  Viewing a scene in two dimension made me look closer at my subjects and eventually helped me understand what it took to create more powerful compositions in my images.  I would say the next step was books.  I read dozens of books that dealt with techniques around color, light, composition and creative photography.  I also learned quite a bit from trial and error.

This was all going down in the 80s and 90s when trial and error actually cost money, of which I didn’t have much.  In college I worked a job at an event photography company which gave me some insight into some different lighting techniques and medium format cameras.

Fast forward a few years, I began shooting surf photography with the idea that it was the direction I wanted to take my work in.  I got my first image published in Surfer magazine around 2000.  Soon after that I found myself interning in the photo department at the magazine and worked my way into a staff position there. The rest is kinda history. I spent close to nine years shooting under Surfer magazine’s umbrella until I went freelance about a year ago.  Now I give all the surf publications my work and spend a great deal of my non-shooting time licensing images within and outside of the surf industry.

Pre-Digital Start…How do you think digital has changed the photography game?

All of my roots are based in shooting film.  Today I shoot nearly all of my images digitally.  There is a great deal to understand when working with transparency film. You have much less latitude for error during exposure than with digital.  If I wanted to create a feel or look with an image I worked with things like film type, exposure, lighting and processing.  Now all of that is done on the computer with specialized software which takes a great deal of time to master. Before, I would drop of my exposed film at the lab with processing instruction and wait for the results to come in.  Now I have become the lab as well.  All of my images require post production to get them where I want them for output (print, web, etc…).

Digital has it’s ups and downs for sure.  Pre-digital was nice because if I was on a trip somewhere I would just throw the shot film in a bag after the days work and that was the end of the work day.  Now, I find myself sitting in front of a laptop on location and editing images shot that day.  It makes for a much longer day of work.  Also, there were much fewer “photographers” out there when we were shooting film thereby making less competition.

Today, there are literally thousands of people shooting digital surf images and underselling the market.  It has become a tricky time for all seasoned surf photographers.  Many are looking in other areas to make a living.  On the bright side though, we are seeing some of the most amazing imagery ever in surf publications.  I’ve found it much better to embrace the technology and road of digital photography in my career.  It’s here to stay…until the next great thing comes along.  I would not trade the knowledge I gained with shooting film for anything.  But, I am very excited about the digital realm.  It has really allowed me to expand my creativity and image making.

Land or water?

Like at a sports event, there is always going to be the people in the stands and the people in the game.  For me, shooting in the water is far more rewarding and fun.  It’s more like being in the game.  That being said, I prefer to approach each situation with the intent of creating the best possible image of the subject matter.  Sometimes shooting from the land suits the subject better than in the water.  The first step I take when shooting is to define my intent.  From there I decide my strategy to achieve that intent.  I’ve always believed that quality image making derives from one of two things and sometimes both.  These being a strong concept which has been given careful forethought or just plain dumb luck.

You have some insane water shots….love the color and angles.   Any hairy near death experiences?

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say “near death”, but I’ve definitely been in situations where things just didn’t feel “right”.  I did a trip down to Puerto Escondido once with the Greg and Rusty Long.  The waves were pretty large as one might imagine.  The Longs were calling it 12-14 feet, which basically translates into a 25 foot face, top to bottom barreling beach break onto a somewhat shallow sand bottom.  I remember looking at the lineup from the beach and wondering if swimming was a good idea.  A few minutes later I jumped into a rip current likened to a class 4 rapid heading out to sea.  As I was floating out to the lineup, which seemed more like a series of gigantic closeouts, I saw these super thick lips detonating where I was heading.  I remember thinking to myself in that situation, ‘If one of these things lands on top of me it is most definitely going to break my neck or back’.  I finally made it to the outside after barely slipping under several set waves.  I can’t remember ever feeling so small and vulnerable as I did in that moment.  I managed to get a couple shots of Greg with the fisheye lens, which did absolutely no justice to the situation.  Surfer ran a 1/2 page and I think I made about $80.

In retrospect, it hardly seemed worth it.  But, when you are on a trip with the Long brothers, you gotta swim.  I was sure happy to be back on the beach after that one though.

Travel?  Are you venturing into some other mediums?  Or is surf your staple?

Travel is always part of the gig.  There is only so much you can do as a surf photographer in your own backyard.  Fortunately for me, much of my travel has been on someone else’s dime.  I’ve been lucky to have been to some of the most remote places in the world.  Places which would have been nearly impossible to experience without forging relationships within the surf industry.  I feel very lucky.

Over the past year I have been involved in several projects outside of the surf industry which have been very exciting.  There has been a greater demand for my fine art prints over the last year and I am working with a few partners to develop that end of my business.  My work will always have a hand in ocean related imagery.  But there is so much amazing subject matter within land’s interiors that I have been working towards creating images away from the ocean a bit lately.

I recently did a photo trip to Yosemite National Park for five days and was in complete awe of the beauty.  I couldn’t believe I had not been there before.  I’m not moving away from surf photography, but I am definitely tapping into some other subject matter which has been a great deal of fun and inspiring.

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