Iconic surf photographer Ted Grambeau has just released his new book Adventures In Light. Ben Mondy sat down with Ted to talk about the 40 year career that graces its pages.
Last week on the Gold Coast I bumped into an ex-pro surfer who I had once done a magazine trip to Tasmania with a few decades ago. The trip was long, damp, blighted by a lack of swell and came with a surf photographer who, at best, could be labeled enthusiastic and kind and at worst one of the biggest irritants on the planet. The surfer and I had bonded on the trip, the traumatic experience becoming the glue to an enduring friendship. That trip was our Vietnam, we had survived, and even after five years of little or no contact, the bond was still strong. My point is that, as a rule, surf photographers are a strange breed. Often either extroverts that dislike humans or loners forced into social environments, they look through life through a small square hole and their views can be somewhat constrained. A lack of appropriate financial rewards for their art, a transient life on the road and constant dealings with pampered pro surfers and entitled industry types also doesn’t help their general demeanor. Often, they are just plain weird. Its a prerequisite of the job.
There are exceptions though, and Ted Grambeau, might be the only one. Universally regarded as one of the rare gentleman in the surf world, Ted has carved out a 40-year career not only by being one of the best photographers the surf world has ever seen, but also by being one of the best traveling companions you could hope for. His latest self-published coffee table book, Adventures in Light, is a photographic celebration of a stunning career that has featured not only some of the most iconic surf trips of all time, but a life rich in adventure, humour, swimwear models and culture. We spoke to Ted to see how it call came about.
Tracks: Describe Adventures in Light in your own words
Ted: Self publishing meant I could publish the shots I love the most. I wanted it to be a celebration of my photographic journey and that journey goes beyond surfing. It takes in festivals, culture, portraits, underwater images, fashion and photojournalism.
How did you choose the images? Is there a theme or narrative to the book?
I wanted each shot to be solely based on their photographic integrity. Myself and the designer Alistair Mitchell just printed out hundreds of candidate photos that I loved the most from my entire collection and just picked the photos on the merit. That means a beautiful shot of Alana Blanchard might be juxtaposed with a pack of wild dogs in Mexico, which is followed by a shot of Mick Fanning with a gorilla.
You are heavily associated with the Rip Curl’s Search campaign, what role has that played in your career?
When Rip Curl started that campaign it was the perfect fit with my ideals. I was on a search myself anyway, so the synergy was a beautiful thing. It gave me a platform to go explore the world, but more importantly it became all about the journey. For me that is the essence of any trip and what I’ve tried to capture in the book. It’s a perspective on who I am and where I have come from. I’ve chosen four or five iconic surf trips, groundbreaking trips that best show my love of adventure and discovery.
How many waves have you discovered?
God knows, but people tend to forget some of the adventures, be it in Namibia or Norway, that we undertook back in the day. They were obviously pre internet and social media, and these days people seem to think if it wasn’t on Instagram it doesn’t exist. The timelines are all out of whack. However that’s not the point really, as I said it was and still is all about the journey. For us on those trips, we’ll have memories for a lifetime.
How has social media changed the landscape for you photographers?
I think books will start to play a more important role in culture soon. The great thing about putting images into print in a beautiful way, means that it has longevity and readers can return to it. The recent phenomena of assigning a three-second value to an image I think won’t be so pervasive in the future. I’m sure it will be around, but not the extent it is right now. It is still all so new. I passionate about having a legacy and I think making a beautiful book is the best way to have that.
Where can you buy the book?
Head to my website