Ryan Tatar grew up in Michigan but surfing drew him to California, where he took up photography and began chronicling the sport’s unique culture.
The ultimate lo-fi photographer, he shoots only on film, the perfect medium to capture the state’s dreamy light and woozy wave-riding vibe.
I got into photography after college when I started travelling more. I wanted to document the things I was seeing and share with friends and family. Shortly after I moved to California and started focusing my lens on surf culture. Surfing is something I grew up wanting to do despite growing up in Detroit, Michigan.
I’ve shot mostly surf culture on film. Although lately I’ve been a desert rat and spending some time in the backcountry of the Alps and Sierras.
“They just capture that feeling. Hard to describe unless you surf.”
My heroes? Thomas Campbell always inspired me with his stills and surf films. I love older work shot on film from Ron Stoner, John Witzig, and Jeff Divine. Ron Stoner has a few shots that just SPEAK to me. They just capture that feeling. Hard to describe unless you surf.
Why do I always shoot film and not digital? I occasionally revisit looking at digital since the quality has gotten better over the last few years and folks such as VSCO have developed really good editing tools that were based on countless hours of trying to mimc the colour palette and grain of certain films. All in all, I don’t spend too much time thinking about it.
I still like that film is a very real chemical process burning a vision into a piece of photo sensitive paper versus an approximation of 1’s and 0’s. It still has a unique real feel to it. It is also freeing to take your time and shoot a few carefully composed thoughtful photos and then become present again in the moment instead of a rapid fire session glued to a viewfinder and LCD screen followed by hours on a computer editing every detail. I think digital would be the call for certain types of photography like architectural, product shoots, and some commercial shoots. For what I am looking to capture though, it is not the best medium.