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Great Dane

The Yak sat down with Dane Peterson – surfer, photographer, lover and epic shit-kicker to tell him how much we love his work. Words by Paige Maddison. Images by Dane Peterson.

So Dane, what was your childhood like?
Dark, angry and riddled with allergies, for the most part. I grew up in Eastern Los Angeles and most of my memories are from around the times of the Los Angeles riots. Before it all went off it was a predominantly middle-class white neighborhood, which then quickly diminished into a ghetto. I was a blond haired surfer, so I stood out like a sore thumb. During those years, surfing, baseball and hanging with my father were my only escapes from the negativity that surrounded me. Thinking back on it all now, I wish I’d been into photography at that point. I’d have shot it all with Neopan 1600, black and white. That shit would have been dope.

When did you first start to pursue photography and what camera did you begin with?
I purchased my first SLR in 2002, so roughly 10 years ago. It was a Nikon FM2 fixed with a 50mm f1.8 lens, which is a fully manual operated camera system.

I imagine you would have upgraded since that time… what’s your current camera of choice?
I use a few different bodies, all Nikon equipment. Most of my work is shot analogue on a Nikon F100 and then the rest of the time I use a Nikon D300 for digital applications.

Your work has been featured on the covers of publications worldwide. Do you know how many you have had? What’s your favourite?
Off the top of my head, I would guess around 20, maybe a few more. This isn’t counting catalogue or industry work. I’ve had a couple that I really like. I feel like an absolute dork even admitting that. But my all-time favourite is of my good friend Harrison Roach, featured on the first issue of the Australian publication, Foam Symmetry. What I like most about this cover is the fact that the magazine has a portrait orientation, but they print their covers landscape, so it wraps around the front and back cover. This is a very interesting way for images to be displayed I think, given that thee days magazines are ruled by the almighty dollar, which means the back page usually goes to advertising.

What about the days when the weather is poor and you can’t go outdoors to surf and/or photograph? How do you survive?
I shoot black and white. Luckily for me, because of the way our house is situated, it’s like a studio between the hours of 7.30 and 10.00 in the morning and then again from 2.00 to 4.30 in the afternoon. So if I’m feeling up for it, I can always shoot portraits and/or some still life to preoccupy my mind. Otherwise, I’ll try to catch up on all the work that’s fallen behind.

Where do you get your photographic inspiration?
That’s kind of a broad question. It all depends on the elements I’m working with and what I’m shooting, but for the most part I’ll just see something and view it in a different light. I generally seem to see things from an unusual perspective. From that realisation, I am then inspired to capture what I’m viewing, photographically, and hopefully create a story around what I’m observing.

Why film as opposed to digital?
I just grew up shooting film and it’s what I learned and what I know best. It’s a medium I prefer working with and I believe that when I create or capture an image, I find that my film work portrays a deeper sense of emotion and depth in the imagery and shows more of the feeling, so people relate to it better.

What makes you love surf photography?
My background is in surfing; I grew up as a surfer riding long boards, travelled extensively and was photographed whilst doing so. I reached a point where I realised I was seeing the surfing world in a whole different perspective to the way it was portrayed in print. I wanted to showcase my own take; on the way I saw things. Surf photography is just one outlet for me. I love working on projects with friends and colleagues, whether it’s on lifestyle work, portrait work or in the water. Even the simple little things… like a couple of afternoons ago there was a group of weeds sprouting in our lawn, and it just caught my eye, so I shot it. It was the most gratifying image I’d created all week. I don’t believe surf photography is my only calling; all I know is that I am deeply passionate about creating imagery on all levels and that I am extremely fortunate to have it as my job and enjoy it so much.

You were over in Bali recently as part of a group art show at the Deus Temple of Enthusiasm. What else did you get up to whilst you were here?
My main objectives of the trip were to curate my side of the art show, which was something I was extremely excited about, seeing as Deus allocated such a large space in the gallery for my work. Aside from that, I was working with … Alex Knost, Jared Mell and Harrison Roach to secure lifestyle and surf imagery for their sponsors and some editorial features. Unfortunately I didn’t get to surf much – I had a minor mishap on a scooter three days into the trip. It left me with a sprained ankle and numerous grazes on both legs. It would have been quite funny to witness, and I laughed at the time, but it proved to be a pain in the ass, getting around and cleaning cuts in Bali. In my down time I did a little bit of body surfing, hung out at Deus, and continued to shoot all the rad shit that goes down in and around the temple.

Looking at your work it seems fair to say you’re intrigued by the feminine form on a surf board? Could you elaborate on that?
(Laughs) I guess you could say that, and I imagine it would have something to do with my background in long boarding and the appreciation for style and grace of any form that was instilled in me as a young surfer. There’s something to be said about a woman who can handle herself in the water, who can control a surfboard properly and adequately, then to be able to do all that and make it look easy truly a site to behold. I’m fortunate enough to know a handful of women like this and am able to photograph them.

What makes you different?
I’m a character. I struggle with authority to a point. I like to have fun every day and try my hardest to not be held down by something as silly as my chronic allergies. I’m brutally honest, which can sometimes come back and bite me in the ass. But in being that way, I know that I’m standing up for my beliefs and morals as well as keeping true to my direction.

Describe your perfect day.
Wake up, make love to my beautiful partner, and then pop down to our favourite coffee shop for a soy latte, toasted avocado cream cheese bagel and a dip into the ocean. Whether it’s riding a log, going for a swim or a body surf, or even just an hour down the beach in the sun; there’s something about having my toes in the sand that I long for daily. I’d then head home to my office, check my emails and avoid as much work as I possibly can, in the hope of catching up with friends. This might generally consist of taking photographs of some kind, or creating something with friends’ and my imagery. An afternoon coffee is a must and I like to end my day sharing in the duties of a home cooked meal with my honey bun, snuggling on the lounge watching a movie and finishing a bottle of red. That would be a fucking perfect day.

What inspires you in your day-to-day life?
Analogue imagery, textured surfaces, love, laughter and my friends. It is rare to find genuinely kind humans, and when you do, it is particularly inspiring. CLOUDS… I always find that if I’m staring off into the clouds, it sparks some form of imagination in my mind. I nearly forgot one major aspect of inspiration… COFFEE! Life’s petrol.

What do you see yourself doing in five years time?
Who knows, really? You may have a slight idea, if you’ve just put yourself on lockdown and planned to study for the next 60 months. But other than that, I’m just trying to live in the now.

Any last words?
I used to say, Quit your job, Buy a Ticket, Never return. But now it’s just, DO EPIC SHIT.