Presented by Wave Riding Vehicles @ https://www.waveridingvehicles.com
In my nearly 50 year long life as a surfing photojournalist ( aka “surf photographer” ), with 16 of them spent as photo editor for ESM, I know a one trick pony’s work when I see it. And viva the whole bloody lot of them because they have been as equally instrumental in the success of Eastern Surf Magazine – and now at www.easternsurf.com – as any multiple skilled, Swiss Army Knife type shooter who can do it all. However, that kind of multi- dimensional “surf photographer”, who does it with consistency and excellence of execution from the land, air, sea, studio and beyond in both endemic and non-endemic pursuits, well, they tend to be rare breed indeed. The average surf shooter in these days of digitography is stoked enough just to set-up on a beach with a short to medium telephoto, bang away until they fill the card and totally crush the surf action which is where their sole interest lies. And fair enough. Nobody knows better than us that it truly it takes a photographers village to build a surf mag like ESM that had a glorious, 27 year run – and now the digital version of it you are probably now swiping reading this on your held device – because of each and every one of their contributions matters greatly. We’ll gladly take every action shot they want to submit with huge thanks so please keep ’em coming! On the other side of that static but important equation are the uber versatile shooters like Chrissy Swain. And, after having a fairly deep dive into the New Yorker by way of East Setauket body of work, it is keenly evident she is a very sharp blade on that aforementioned internationally iconic, fire engine red penknife equipped to do more than one job. In fact, she wields quite a few photographic blades by excelling not just at at surf action from the land or swimming in freezing or tropical waters with a waterhousing in hand but she also has highly sophisticated skills in portraiture, lifestyles, fine art imagery, weddings, family gatherings, corporate work, mag or web editorial and is quite comfortable in the fashionista world where she’s been hired to shoot for Neiman freakin’ Marcus among others. Chrissy’s Swiss Army Knife versatility is exactly what our “Shooter Series” is all about and we are stoked to say the least to present this amazing portfolio of her work with help from our good friends at Wave Riding Vehicles. – Mez –
Hometown: East Setauket, NY
Where do you shoot he most ? Montauk, Rhode Island for surf and all over Long Island professionally
Favorite Place to shoot ? Lighthouses from the water.
Water or land photos ? Water… no contest!!!
Favorite Surfer to shoot ? Mary Schmader, she has excellent style on a longboard or short board and is one of my closest friends.
What’s in your kit bag ? Canon 7D w 50 mm lens, Aqua-tech Imaging Solutions Water housing, Canon 5 d mark vii, Canon Mark 1 D, Canon 70-200 mm, Canon 24-70mm, Sigma 50-400mm.
When did you start photography ? I stared in the eighth grade with a film photography class through public school, we developed and processed in a dark room our own images… it was great, thanks Mr. Diana for fueling younger generations than yourself.
Why Surf Photography ? I have been fortunate enough to link up with East Coast Surfers that have been training and honing their surfing and getting ready for international surf comps all over the East Coast. I have travelled to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Outer Banks, New York, Rhode Island to surf and I enjoy documenting swelIs and surf culture and have been at it for over two decades. I was able to line up private sessions and spend time with young talent and form lasting relationships that are very special. Supporting young athletes and capturing the drive and glimpses of their journey has be very rewarding. I am now back in New York and have my eye on the up and coming generation of rippers.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your photo businesses, life and surfing? Covid had me avoiding Montauk from Early March for at least 3 months. I ended up surfing only undisclosed south shore Long Island spots, alone… I also didn’t shoot anything cuz there was no other surfers there and it was all un-picturesque beach break. Professionally I was able to participate in the Front Porch project with Yellow House Images, a family owned and operated business has really helped me develop as a professional photographer. The owner, Andrew Theodorakis raised a substantial amount of money for his personal friend and colleague, the NY Post Sports Photographer of the year, the late and great Anthony Causi and his family. And I recently shot my first wedding since the pandemic began. It was at a socially distanced gathering held outdoors in Montuak using mostly a long focal length lens and wore a mask during the small amount of crucial interiors that included the bride getting ready and intimate family and wedding party moments before the ceremony. Lastly, I have been working more on taking photographs of my own family and finally printing shots and updating frames around the house. Like most photographers, I hate being in front of the lens so I’ve taken a few more pictures this year for my son to look back on and have.
Surf Photog you draw inspiration from ? I look up to all of the surf photographers that have come before me, but my Two favorites are Art Brewer and Chris Burkard. I have been a fan of both of these guys for so long and just really appreciate their artistic eye and execution of every shot they produce.
First Published Photo ? In Puerto Rico I got a front page image plus spread on Hector Santa Maria in print for a local newspaper, also that same year WRV used a shot of Natalie Matthews ( back then aka Natty Perez).
Biggest buyout print or digital and tell us more about it ? One of my first big sales was from an interior designer that I attended college with and she chose this surfer girl silhouette of my friend Liz Hauzer, who I surfed and shot with all the time back in the day… there was this oil slick in front of her silhouette paddling a short board.
Non-surf image you’re really stoked on and why ? This image of a Barred Owl was in an art show I entered in New Fairfield, CT when I lived there, it ended up on the front page of the local paper to promote the show, in the program and on their flyer, I was so stoked… and now it graces the wall in my son’s bedroom above his bookshelf. I have always had a thing for Owls because their was a needlepoint my grandmother made hanging in my childhood room, so now it’s kind of a special interest I love to shoot.
How do you feel about the rise of digital, social media and the decline of print surf magazines ? Well considering I have my original roots in print photography ( dark room, etc. ), I kind of hate that the art is semi-lost… however photography being a very technological art form, if you cannot keep up and adapt it seems you will fall behind. I personally will never stop loving the art of photography, but in some senses worry about my capacity to keep up with the technology because it moves so quickly.
What do you photograph besides surfing ? I love to shoot birds of prey/ nature and landscape photography for fun, as well as skateboarding. Professionally speaking, in the corporate photography world I have been fortunate enough to shoot an Annie Leibovitz book signing for Neiman Marcus, as well as having the pleasure of shooting other fashion and art icons such as Brandon Maxwell and Jimi Paintz. These experiences will stay with me forever.
If you could pick one place to travel and shoot all expenses paid where would it be and why ? I would choose The Mentawais for its remoteness and awesome waves, but also have always wanting to go on a surf boat trip in clear water which makes this spot specifically appealing and on the bucket list for sure.
What’s a subject particularly special to you and why ? Being a female surfer I have been invested in shooting real female surfers that I’ve met, surfed with, and befriended along the way. I always played team sports of soccer and lacrosse growing up, so I am a big proponent of women supporting women and being a team player in general, not to mention the “girl power” that is instilled playing these team sports . I have a ton of fun and random friendships from being a female surfer, and it’s something I have always had a specific interest in documenting and respecting/ representing. The female form, specifically surf girl silhouettes is one of my favorites for large art prints, I love playing with the reflection of water, the vibrant colors and the contrast of the female form with these silhouettes.
Places you’ve traveled to and photographed ? Spain, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Puerto Rico…
Any Final thoughts or observations ? I just want to thank all the photographers who have came before me, especially those who have mentored me and given me business… Andrew Theodorakis of Yellow House Images and Ryan Honan who is on his team: these guys have helped me on the back end of photography and I grew leaps and bounds. Also Gayle Tiller of Gayle Tiller Photography an amazing mentor and portrait photographer/ friend and Julie Dreelin of Beach Productions, both talented water women are based in The Outer Banks of North Carolina and have really been creative friends and mentors along then way. It’s important to have people that inspire and help you, appreciate their craft and knowledge so you can eventually get better and pay it forward along the way!
Please follow the talented and diverse work of Chrissy on Instagram @chrissyswainphotography. Also, check her website at https://www.chrissyswainphotography.com and support your local photogs by buying prints or hiring them for your photographic needs and enjoy the rest of her portfolio below – ESM –