Peter Dive’s images are compelling for all of the obvious reasons–we love surf photography in pretty much any form or context–but there’s something distinct about Peter’s work that gets us to look twice, and then again. Each of his photographs leaves an afterimage lingering in your mind even as you’re onto the next, whether it’s an intensely colored sky or a speck of foam frozen in midair as a shaper runs his planer over a blank. He nails the easy curvature of a surfer skating to the beach; his close-ups are earnest and good. We spoke to Peter about how he got his start, being on the D list, and how Cali differs from down under.
PD Hello !
T&F Have a few questions. Now a good time to chat?
PD Sure, ask away…
PD From Sydney–live in Hollywood.
T&F Nice. How long have you been doing surf photography?
PD I fell into it about 5 years ago. I started practicing daily at El Porto in the South Bay for about a year, every morning.
Prior to surf I was doing headshots for models, actors, and musicians in Hollywood, along with some other odd photographic jobs. Nothing was really doing it for me. My love of portraiture was originally what got me into the surf photography, though. I wanted to do a series of photos of surfers, but I had to stand on the beach a lot to get them, so I started shooting the action side as well, and something just clicked. It was an ahaaa moment, you could say.
T&F Haha, great! So who published you first?
PD I had a few photos out in local print and websites by sponsors, and then came Surfline with the US Open, a Brett Simpson photo and a Miguel Pupo photo. Eventually SurfingLife Mag Australia picked up a few of my portrait photos of Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson, which was followed by a 2-pager of Kelly Slater walking out of the water after the finals at the US Open.
SurfingLife Mag has shown a lot of love and support, using my images of contests and behind the scenes, etc., daily online and in print. I’ve also contributed to Ghetto Juice Mag, almost every issue.
T&F We love Ghetto Juice. So have you developed any key relationships with any of the surfers you’ve shot?
PD No real hookups with many big name surfers, I’m still on the D list. Well, actually, I chat a lot with some of the Spanish guys, Aritz Aranburu for example. We shoot whenever possible if they are in Cali.
T&F Haha, being on the D list might work to your advantage–gives you anonymity. You mentioned something previously about a California longboarding series. Can you talk about your plans for that?
PD So, I’m starting up a project shooting longboarders up and down the coast…the whole culture, in and out of the water, shapers, lifestyle portraits, etc. And with a real Cali feel to the style of the photo, since it’s so different here to where I’m from. I’ll be putting in a lot of hours at San O.
T&F What are the main differences between Australia and here?
PD I grew up watching SoCal on TV and in movies. It has its own style and feel, the palm trees, piers, wide sandy beaches, volleyball, roller bladers, etc. Definitely its own little world, so I want to shoot it as I see it, as an outsider looking in…if that makes sense.
T&F Makes sense. Film or digital?
PD Digital. I’m all digital these days.
T&F Awesome. Anything else?
PD You’re right about the anonymity. I like to keep to myself, keep my distance, shoot the surfers candidly, nothing posed. Try to capture a little of the moment, the surf culture as I see it, and the real person.
T&F I can definitely see that in your work. It’s very honest.
The art will be to keep that distance.
PD Right. So if that keeps me on the D list, I’m good with that. (Laughs)
It’s been said a few times, and I agree with it, because he is my idol when it comes to photography, but…I’m trying to put a little Bruce Weber style into surf photography.
There is so much talent out there shooting the action photos that I can’t even begin to compete. So I don’t. I just do my little thing and it seems to be working.
T&F It definitely does. Can’t wait to see what’s next. I think we’re good. Thank you!
PD Thank you. Thanks for your interest.