Daniel Fuller Photography
Daniel Fuller

About the Artist

Daniel Fuller was born in Hanalei, Kauai. His work as a photographer and artist is best understood through his 26 years as a surfer and 13 years as a professional big wave specialist. To experience life through one’s own person, no matter how talented or special, and yet to see it through eyes that are impersonal, is a theme that recurs in his abstract seascapes time and again.

Travelling all over the globe to find the biggest, the gnarliest, the tightest, and the most powerful wave ever seen, seems like a surreal and futile pursuit in and of itself. These epic feats of daring and physi- cal skill usually occur in far-off places where there is no witness; places like Bali, the Maldives or some remote pipeline break off Tahiti called Teahupoʻo. The point of these exploits is to publish and publicize an ongoing stream of exciting and “extreme” surfing images to feed an ever-growing audience that consumes the magazines, films, websites and especially merchandise that the surf industry is hawking. Now that “surfing” as a lifestyle has wholly overwhelmed the actual sport itself, it is interesting to look at a body of work that is both connected to the sport and yet unrelated to much of what it has become. The man who specializes in surfing the north shore of Oahu’s famous “Banzai Pipeline”, and who flies in to Maui to “paddle in” to the famous and treacherous “Jaws” wave (jet ski tow-ins are frowned upon) on special needle shaped boards known as “guns”, actual- ly sees the ocean very differently than we might imagine.

In Fuller’s work the ocean and the shore are abstracted beyond recognition, to the point that what we see is just color; the composition is a transition from one to the other - dry land merges into the water and the image becomes a part of the liquid experience. The mood recalls those famous descriptions of swimming in the novels of Albert Camus’ novels where he beautifully describes the sensation of being swallowed by the water, with so much pleasure that the reader is left doubting whether the narrator will ever return. For Camus, swimming represents some glimmering of col- lective harmony, the possibility of transcendence. This is even more true in surfing, where one is engulfed in the miracle that is nature, and gravity alone will permit a man to slide down the face of a wave, allowing him to regulate both his speed and direction. This symbiosis between man and nature is what gives surfing its “soulful” nature - the silent pairing of man to the Earth’s primary element without the use of technology or engineering - remember, the surfer stands on a simple board and hand paddles his way into the drop - it’s a sport that hasn’t fundamentally changed in over a hundred years. Fuller’s abstractions bring to mind that soulful meditative moment of total confidence and calm that the professional surfer must find before he launches off the peak of those death-defying monster waves or gets “tubed” inside the perilous barreling waves that pow- erfully break in a few inches of water as they hit sharp coral reefs. Surfing has always retained an aesthetic simplicity that makes it half sport, half meditation. Fuller channels that vintage quality of early surfing culture when the sport was not about selling sunglasses and bathing trunks, it was a simple contemplation of nature and a way to connect with it.

Fuller’s photographs, whether taken in Hawaii, Tahiti or Sumatra bring with them both sides of what it means to seek out the “extreme” in surfing. The work evokes the soulful beauty of the ocean as well as its intimidating and deadly power. The sensual allure of his beautiful hues of blue mixed with the ominous presence of a body of water whose sheer scale makes it feel infinite, re- mind us just how minuscule and insignificant we are relative to the ocean and the broader context of the Universe.

Adam Lindemann