Iconic photographer Art Brewer, who defined surf photography for over five decades, has passed away at the age of 71.
Brewer, who has photographed surfing legends like Gerry Lopez, Tom Curren, and Kelly Slater, died after battling liver failure.
A GoFundMe account, set up to pay for Brewer’s medical expenses, said that the photographer had been facing life-threatening health issues.
On November 11, it was revealed on the GoFundMe page that Brewer had passed away at UCLA Hospital and “was peacefully surrounded by family and close friends.”
Surfing’s Most Naturally Gifted Surf Photographer
Referred to “as the sport’s most naturally gifted surf photographer” by Matt Warshaw in the definitive Encyclopedia of Surfing, Brewer was self-taught.
Brewer, who was based in Laguna Beach, California, started surfing at the age of 12 and picked up his first camera at age 16.
Brewer published his first cover shot for Surfer magazine in 1968 — a year after picking up a camera.
He went on to become the surfing world’s dominant photographer for the next few decades. Brewer was renowned for both his action shots and his portraits.
He spent the next decade shooting photographs for Surfer magazine and competitor Surfing magazine.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he continued ruling surf photography with some of the most iconic action shots the sport has ever seen.
According to an obituary in The New York Times, Brewer “showed a deft eye for lighting and framing in capturing the thrilling sights of great surfers.”
“Through Mr. Brewer’s lens, Bruce Irons surfed into what looked like the eye of a hurricane in Indonesia; Barry Kanaiaupuni darted through Honolulu Bay like a speedboat, leaving a wake behind him; Shane Dorian, also in Indonesia, appeared to split the ocean; and Strider Wasilewski seemingly rode his board underwater off Oahu.”
Jim Kempton, the former editor of Surfer magazine, described Brewer’s surfing portraits as “character studies.”
Brewer’s images have appeared in publications like Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine.
Adventure Journal reports that Brewer moved on to shoot more commercial photography later on in his life “once the digital camera and internet obliterated traditional surf photography.”
However, Brewer’s work continued to impact the generations of surf photographers that came after him.
Image credits: Header photo from GoFundMe/Art Brewer Fund.