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An Interview with Photographer Jeremy Koreski


There are a lot of preconceived notions of what surfing is supposed to look like, where it goes down, who's on the board. It's often a sort of bleached-out, idealized version of the sport that was burned into the collective subconscious around Elvis' Blue Hawaii days, filled with white sandy beaches and palm trees... at least if you don't know any better.

Canadian photographer Jeremy Koreski has been charting the type of surfing territory only insiders can dream up. His work is a portal to a brave new world. As a resident of British Columbia, his images reflect a more rugged terrain and wickedly colder settings that look light-years away from the stereotypical Hawaiian Tropic dreamscapes of the '50s. And while surfing isn't automatically associated with old timey heritage vibes (you could say "Americana" but we're talking internationally here), Koreski integrates that universal feeling of nostalgia seamlessly into his work, making surfing seem as national a pastime anywhere in the world--be it back home in Canada or on assignment in New Zealand--as baseball is here back in the States. Half the time you feel like you're looking at B-sides from a fishing trip, deer antlers living side-by-side with racks of surfboards and wetsuits hanging out to dry.   

The nature of Koreski's unique work has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, he has amassed a client list that includes everyone from Google to ESPN, with numerous publications in between. ISAORA sat down and talked with the man about surfing, serendipity, and the surprising appeal of staying close to home.

Do you remember when you were first published as a photographer? 

Haha. My first images ever published ran without credit, nor did I get paid. An athlete friend submitted them and the magazine never thought to ask who shot them or [ask] for permission to print them. Ten years later I ended up being a photo editor for a magazine run by the same publisher. 

What's the appeal of shooting the outdoors and surfing in particular?

Tofino is at the end of the road on Vancouver Island, and growing up here forced me to be outside a lot--whether it was camping with my parents in the summer or going for day trips with my dad on his commercial fishing boat. When I first picked up a camera, I started photographing my friends, whether they were snowboarding, skateboarding, or surfing. As my friends grew as athletes, I grew as a photographer. Now quite often I am traveling on assignment photographing my close friends who are paid to surf. 

What's the best place you've ever been to shoot?

The best place I've found in the world is right here at home in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. I'm always amazed by how many places I haven't explored that are only a 20 to 30-minute boat ride from my home.

What locations are on your bucket list?

There are so many. Antarctica, Western Australia, Scandinavia... to name a few.

You really capture the Pacific so perfectly. What do you connect to the most out there?

Growing up in a small coastal town I was surrounded by nature from day one, whether out on my dad's fishing boat or camping on an island with my family. And now, more and more, I'd like my work to help conserve habitat for wild animals and places for people to enjoy by bringing attention to how amazing nature really is.

All photos courtesy of Jeremy Koreski for Surfer Magazine.