Art Brewer.

FROM YOUR DESKS: Who is the pup and where did the The Virgin Mary, the red mask, the statues and twin skulls come from?

ART BREWER: The Pup is Tag he’s a 4-month-old Lab. We got him after our 12-year-old lab Daxie had to be put to sleep December 23rd –had lung cancer. Mary is from Tijuana Mexico, Baja Norte. She’s part of an ongoing collection of plastic and plaster religious icons that sit with Buddhas, Mandalas, Jesus’ and Krishna’s. I can’t find a Mohamed but own a few prayer rugs.  I’m only religious about what’s right and wrong, and we really know it. In the universe, we create our own destiny through our actions. The red mask is from Mexicos–deep Southern Indians. The tiki statues are from the Pacific around Fiji or Vanuatu and the monkey skulls are called the twins they’re from Sumba in Indonesia. 

FYD: We have a dog called Eddie; after Vedder. Are you a Pearl Jam fan?

AB: Yes. I love Pearl Jam and have followed them since their beginning while working with Beach Culture Magazine in the early 1990’s.

ART BREWER is renowned as one of the world’s premiere surf photographers, always at the forefront of innovation. Over the span of his 40-year career, Art’s surfing images and beach portraits have graced diverse mainstream publications such as Rolling StoneSports IllustratedEsquire, and Playboy. Additionally, his work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, the CoproGallery in Santa Monica, the Earl McGrath Gallery in New York City, and Surf e Cultura da Arte Internacional I Mostrain Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Born in Laguna Beach, California in 1951 , Brewer is a self-taught photographer who began his career as a teen shooting local surfers and even took a seminar from Ansel Adams. In 1968, Art served as principal staff photographer for Surfer Magazine. Between November 1968 and August 1971, Art was staff photographer at Surfer Magazine and scored eight out of seventeen covers. Since Surfers inception, Art is the only photographer to contribute from 1968 to his most recent cover published in May 2010.

Art’s clients include Pepsi, Nike, Volkswagen, Kodak and Quicksilver among others. He’s circled the globe chasing the world’s best waves and biggest surfers. Art’s books include Masters of Surf Photography: Art Brewer (Surfers Journal, 2002) and the documentary and book The Story of Bunker Spreckels (Taschen, 2007). Art lives in Dana Point, California.

FYD: What is your work schedule like?

AB: My schedule varies but on most days it starts at about 7:30 a.m. after a morning bike ride and walk the dog at the beach, the email comes first then dig into the daily lists made the night before, I normally finish around 6:00 p.m.

FYD: Are you a perfectionist?

AB: A perfectionist I’d like to think so, but in reality I’m far from it…

FYD: Did you ever lose or ruin film rolls you wish you still had?

AB: There have been a few over the 40 years, but the worst was a loss of seven rolls I shot in Indonesia in 2002. The rolls were basically drowned inside a waterproof case that wasn’t latched when we were broadsided by a 10-foot wall of white water…we couldn’t get out of the way. The dingy motor died less than five seconds before safely gliding into the channel. These were part of an epic surf session with an A-list of surfers. Oh yes, we also lost 23K of camera gear that day. Luckily, I had back up gear to finish the trip and we came away with two cover images (see below).

FYD: What was the first photo you took?

AB: The first photo was taken with a friend’s camera. He told me to shoot the roll while he borrowed my board and went out for a surf at Thalia Street in Laguna. I shot the roll, got it back three days later and was hooked…that was in 1966. There was an image of another friend getting hit in the head by the lip of the wave that was run in Photos from the Reads in Surfer magazine. That was also the first images ever published.

FYD: Do you have a favorite image?

AB: There are too many and they are favorites for so many different reasons and memories.

If it’s in America, it’s no longer secret, nothing is safe. Everything is for sale..and everyone is selling out.

FYD: You guys were good-looking. Bunker seemed way ahead of his time. Do you miss him?

AB: Yes, it would be great to see what Bunker would have created, he was way ahead of his time. He was a cultural terrorist.

FYD: Is there a modern day Bunker Spreckels out there?

AB: I hope not but I’m sure there are, just in different ways. Back in the late 60s and early 70s, most of us didn’t have the money to live his lifestyle in Hawaii. This was before surf stars were making a million a year surfing. Bunker surfed really well and he had the money to do whatever he wanted –whether good or bad. He was living like a real rock star–sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, most kids out there are brought up thinking that they’re entitled to everything, whether it be a famous pro athlete, artist, photographer, or musician. Bunker worked hard at creating his image and it killed him.

I shot the roll, got it back three days later and was hooked…that was in 1966.

FYD: Does it bum you out to know surfing will never be the same as it once was?

AB: Yes and sometime it bothers me even more because it’s partially my fault by sharing images and editors ID the spots!

FYD: I’m specifically talking about the 70’s and the absolute freedom associated with the time.

AB: More adventures…less rules and regulations.

FYD: I’m reading The Wave right now. It seems like the weather is changing, a shift of patterns and waves.

AB: In some ways. I have a friend that’s taken a daily journal for the last 40 years of wind, air and water temperatures etc. He seems to think there are three and seven-year cycles.

FYD: Do you miss the times or do you just evolve? Of course I really miss the people who had greater ocean knowledge, the real watermen not the manufactured ones that the surf industry builds as brands.

FYD: On the subject of evolution, do you have any thoughts on the new culture of northern Baja and how it impacts the surf community?

AB: Surfing Baja is like a new frontier, as it becomes more and more a reflection of southern California culturally as more people from the US  set up first and second homes there. It appeals to surfers because of the lack of crowds (for the time being) and still has the feeling of adventure, because there aren’t so many rules and regulations like the ones that have smothered us in California. Baja has been there all along but has kept quiet. There are still so many spots that aren’t talked about. Now with the drug cartels and the stories most non hard-core surfers won’t make the crossing into Mexico. The stories get better and better to keep the surf crowds away.

It would be great to see what Bunker would have created, he was way ahead of his time. He was a cultural terrorist.

FYD: Speaking of crowds, Peter Beard lived in Montauk (you took a great photograph of him). In 2003, he put his house for sale and said “Montauk used to have what you call rural integrity…now it’s under the hand of East Hampton, which is like Palm Beach or New York. Do you worry about great spots, little fishing villages, sleepy surf towns becoming overcrowded by spoiled, corporate kids?  How can we keep a secret a secret?

AB: If it’s in America, it’s no longer secret, nothing is safe. Everything is for sale..and everyone is selling out.  I was born and raised in Laguna Beach, California and it was a small artist colony and fishing outpost for abalone and lobster fishermen and the hills just two-to-three miles inland where open and rolling hills as far as you could see. Now the hills are covered with rolling houses as far as the eye can see. Dana Point was the same way, then Army Core of engineers build a harbor and ruined over seven surf breaks to take care of the masses from inland and their yachts.

People came and visited places like Montauk and Laguna from the cities to see how life could be and wanted to get away from the hustle. The ones with the money bought up the land for weekend places and with that comes the lawyers who incorporate the small towns and take over as politicians who make all the rules and regulations and at the same time sell out to big business and corporate America. It’s a cycle where some place that was a nice, small local enclave turns into a place where the elite take over feeling they now have the entitlement. This also brings all the laws and politics of the big cities and we lose the local feel these places once had. We’re all just buying time now. Move to Mexico…

<BONUS: click the lefthand photo to see the full panoramic of Art’s studio (sadly, not supported on this site’s format).

ALL IMAGES AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF ART BREWER PHOTOGRAPHY© Images 1 thru 6: Art Brewer’s studio. Image 7: Art Brewer in 1968 at the Surfers Poll with Bob Cooper next to him Image 8: Art Brewer, present day. Image 9: The Story of Bunker Spreckels.(Taschen Books, 2007).  Image 10: Masters of Surf Photography: Art Brewer. Image 11: Nathan Fletcher shot in September 1998 and on the cover of Surfer January 1999 vol 40 no.1. Image 12: Shane Beschen sold to Surfing as the January 2000 cover (Covers for these magazines are normally on the newsstands two months before actual cover dates). Image 13: David “Brother” Tomkins at Oak Street in Laguna Beach, early 1967 Image 14: Bunker Spreckels and Art Brewer in London from our his tour to Beverly Hills, London, South Africa and Paris, 1974. Image 15: Bunker in the Londonary Hotel, London en route to South Africa with his custom shaped board by Mike Diffenderfer 1974.  Image 16: Ellie and Bunker 1974, Edward Hotel, Durban, South Africa. Image 17: Taylor Knox Baja California, January 2011.  Image 18: Jon Jon Flores, Indonesia 2009 Surfer Magazine cover. Image 19/20: Peter Beard in 1997 at the Warhol Estate by Art Brewer.  Image 21: Steve Bigler at the Ranch 1967, 1st cover by Art Brewer. Image 21: Pat Tobin at Thalia St, Laguna Beach, California 1968 2nd cover by Art Brewer.

4 Comments For “Art Brewer.”

  1. Art,
    Always nice to hear from You. Great information Highway here for Us Old guys. Check out my new site, which will be up by the end of this week.

    Curtis K. Johnson
    Louisville, KY
    Home of the 137th Running of the 2011 Kentucky Derby
    Just 46 Days Away form “Their Off”!

  2. Art,
    You da Man!
    NIce write up and sweet photos. Love it all. You set the bar pretty high and I will always try to get there!!

  3. zeno malan says:

    Is that first shot of Pat Tobin? Curious cuz on googling Pat your name came up.

    How’ve you and yours been? In Kandui until Fri – then Bali.

  4. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this brilliant blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to brand new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group.

    Chat soon!

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