Joey Tichenor Documents the Surfer Lifestyle

Wet like a dog

All images by Joey Tichenor. Used with permission.

“In 2011, I was getting tired of the work I was shooting in Minneapolis both professionally & personally. I wanted & needed to create a fresh body of work to help stand out a bit in my midwest market.” says photographer Joey Tichenor about his photos of surfers. Like every photographer, Joey goes through dry spells of creativity and needs to evolve to become better. For some of us, that means shooting a totally new type of work.

“A lot of the guys that I admired shot environmental portraiture & documentary work which is where I wanted to focus my energy towards rather than the work I’d been doing. I decided that the best place to do this would be out west in California. I also wanted to see if I could build a network of photographers, agency & art buyer contacts out west in hopes of moving there one day.”

Joey tells us the story in his own words after the jump.

Tony & the Spyder

I arrived in LA in 2012 with just a few contacts & a friend of a friend who was awesome a let me crash at his pad for a few months. The house I stayed at was in Woodland Hills, just over the canyon from Malibu, so all I had to do was get up early, ready my gear & hit the beach to meet people.
The first times I went out, I hit Topanga beach in the morning and didn’t have much luck (flat surf), and in the afternoon I went to Venture up north. When I got to Ventura, I took out my lighting gear and walked the beach with a beauty dish on a C-stand looking for folks willing to allow me to make a portrait. Thats where I met two awesome folks who would become great friends. Julie & Clayton. Clayton is originally from Vancouver BC and Julie was from Detroit, Michigan.

Load em up and hit the road, leave Montana buired in the snow

It was easy to make a connection with them being that I’m a Minnesotan (were practically Canadians eh, and Michigan is one of our college rivals) It was thru them that I was connected to this larger community of surfers and given the opportunity to follow them around the beaches of SoCal.

I started out this project with a very loose idea of what I wanted to shoot. I knew very little about the actual culture of surfing other than what I’d seen on movies as a kid. I did know that I was looking for a niche within this culture to document. Thats when I heard the term “Dawn Patrol” from the guys at the morning surfing sessions and it stuck in my head. The Dawn Patrollers are the die hards who seek out the first waves of the day, and to me that means the most dramatic light for a series of portraits or action shots. Just the niche I was looking for. Many of the images were shot between 5:30-7am when the light is naturally amazing.

Venice Beach AM Surfer

When I got back to the midwest and started going through the work, I tried to group it all into one project I called “Into the Ocean”, but the work had a varied look to me and I decided to break them into two different portfolios.

Beach Characters

One was the lit beach portraits that became “Dawn Patrol” and the other one was the more hip shot, natural light type shots that you see in my lifestyle portfolio. I returned again in 2013 to shoot more of the surfing work & fine-tune the previous work. My new friends allowed me to stay with them so, for example, if they were going to Manhattan Beach at 5am, I was there to follow and tag along and be right in the action. The other images of Venice, the skate park, Joshua Tree and such are to show a broader scene of SoCal. There’s so many characters out there you could shoot for a lifetime and not even dent the surface. My goal with the current images is to make books that I show to local agencies in effort to shoot more documentary lifestyle work commercially.

Drop in

Meditation & waves


Las Virginas


Jeff Ho

The meetup


Tribute to Phil

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.