Faith – 4.5


People really trust the accuracy of photos. With the proper ID card, banks don’t hesitate to hand over money to you, security agencies let you into guarded areas, pharmacists and bartenders sell you perception-altering drugs, and car dealerships and mortgage brokers allow you to make purchases far bigger than your personal wealth. It’s that poorly lit 3/4-inch-by-3/4-inch ID photo that somehow validates you in society. And seeing as how most societies are somewhat capitalistic, it’s probably safe to say that capitalism, whose core concepts are personal responsibility and identity, is built on a foundation of a few-billion horrible ID photos and the faith that those terrible photos look somewhat like the people carrying them.And that would be fine if, like fingerprinting or retinal scans, photography were a science. But it’s not. It’s an art, and it does what art does-it comments on social issues, it warps reality, it provokes responses, it captures emotions. While it’s arguable that freezing a moment in time has certain scientific values, the image a camera produces is affected by many factors, each producing dramatic effects on the image. Lighting, lenses, film types, the angle of the camera in relation to the subject, shutter speed, and any of a dozen other factors contribute to the look of a photo, and tweaking any one of them will produce a different window into that moment.These ideas apply to the surf world as well as society as a whole. Lenses distort the size and shape of waves, apertures and shutter speeds exaggerate the speed of surfers, and every still image of a guy stalling in a barrel leaves the mind wondering if he was able to make it out or not. It’s that skepticism that’s given sequence photography its current level of import in surfing. Single frames capture beauty, sequences tell stories.But skeptics aren’t the only ones benefiting from photos shot at six frames per second. While sequence photography is usually considered less beautiful and more factual, the beauty of the sequence comes less from perfect lighting and creative composition, and infinitely more from the capturing of a complete motion. The changing posture of the surfer, the twisting of his trunk, the shifting of his weight as he rides away from a turn, even raising his arms in celebration. It’s been said that style occurs apart from the peak of action; if that’s true, sequence photos might be better at putting style on display than their still brothers.In recent years TransWorld has invested many thousands of dollars helping photographers understand that it’s perfectly okay to hold that button down and waste film in the pursuit of sequential beauty. We think telling the whole story is worth the money. Beginning on page 88 you’ll see some of the returns of our investment.-Joel Patterson