Ryan Tatar is a California surfer/photographer who is also the creator of the popular blog, Shakas and Singlefins. His beautiful, retro-style photography has become his own unique trademark. We spoke with Ryan to find out more.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I felt stoke for the pure fun of it—but also somehow a strange new closeness to the planet by harnessing that natural power of a wave.
What kind of equipment do you use when taking photographs?
I shot a lot of digital images back in California because it was convenient, easy and affordable. After a trip to Japan in June for the Greenroom Festival, I was looking at all of my photos and a friend’s (artist Yusuke Hanai), and I couldn’t believe the mood and soul he managed to capture on a single roll of film in an old Canon FTb. I was immediately convinced that film was a better medium in the story I was trying to tell. I’ve managed to acquire a small and humble collection of great inexpensive, but mechanically sound, vintage cameras and have been working exclusively with film on these old relics. Those cameras, along with an old blue thrift store suitcase full of expired slide films, have been my latest trip.
What do you look for when shooting images?
That usually changes as I believe my tastes change as I am inspired by what’s around me. For the most part though, I’ve always searched for something interesting without a lot of distractions around the subject.
For example, sometimes I see the perfect subject but it’s just not the right backdrop. Let’s say it’s a rusted out International Scout with a shiny new swallowtail sticking out. If its parked in the dirt parking lot at San Onofre, I will feel inspired. If it’s parked next to a BMW at Ross Dress for Less in a strip mall, then the moment just doesn’t speak to me. That’s not to say there aren’t interesting things in unexpected places—it’s just that for me the whole situation should have some authenticity when you are creating a photograph.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
I’m sure a lot of surfers would say this or that wave or culture they came across upon their travels—and it’s hard to pick one place because I think they all stand out in one way or another. That being said, I thought it was pretty cool to see Tikal in Guatemala. We got there after the “park,” if you would call it that, was closed. We still managed to get in and had the place to ourselves. It was a magical moment, being in an ancient, powerful and forgotten city with the sun falling below the canopy in a strange land with the only soul around being my lady and a guy we paid to sneak us in.
Who/what inspires you?
Vinyl records, old well-kept cameras, my parents, rootsy watering holes off the beaten path, divey Mexican restaurants, my girlfriend Joanie, countless films, artists, and photographers, rusty surf rigs, the ocean, large strange foreign cities, small American towns, the open road (not the interstate), local farms, mom and pop stores and old crusty sailors.
What is currently your favorite board?
I’m currently loving a 9’6″ Michel Junod 60s-inspired log. And I’m just getting used to a pretty rad board my friend Josh Hall shaped for me—a 7’11″ long fish Simmons.
What’s your favorite meal?
California burritos at Roberto’s or Ponce’s in San Diego or some home cooking!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Music is a big part of my life. I find it very relevant and important as frequently a voice of dissent or just a sign of the times. Right now, I’m listening to the Black Keys, Radiohead, Zeppelin, Vetiver, the Mattson 2, Real Estate, Grizzly Bear, the Drums, the Photographic, the Kooks, some stuff on Ubiquity records, the Avett Brothers, Animal Collective, and the Mumlers.
What causes/organizations do you support?
The Surfrider Foundation. Clean beaches and open access for all is such a great thing. Jim Moriarty is doing a great job over there with his organization.
What’s next for Ryan Tatar?
I’ve got a big piece coming out in the current issue of Slide, and am working on some similar stuff for a few other magazines. Also, I’m doing a slideshow at the Annenberg Center of Photography in Los Angeles in February. In concurrence, I’m planning a trip to California to shoot some film and surf my old spots in So Cal. Until then, I’ll be surfing and documenting an underground Cape Fear surf scene out in southeastern North Carolina where I now call home.
Find out more about Ryan Tatar and his photography here.