Photographer Chris Burkard has always loved water. "I just love being in it," he says. "I love surfing. I love body surfing. I love just getting into the ocean and swimming out."
It's an activity that suits his line of work perfectly. For roughly half a dozen years, Burkard has been a senior staff photographer at Surfer Magazine, where he photographs contests and surfers doing their thing in wild places. He has also contributed stories to magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and Outside.
A native and resident of San Luis Obispo, Burkard this year published a book of collected photographs from seven years' worth of journeys: "Distant Shores: Surfing the Ends of the Earth" (Ammo Books; $39.95). The images are as much about surfing as they are about landscape, featuring craggy peaks, pine-covered hillsides, the translucent bottle-green of a curling wave and chilly blue icebergs. (Burkard follows surfers to all climes.)
"When I started photography, all I ever wanted to do was shoot landscapes," he says. "I studied for a short time under a landscape photographer. But shooting landscape is a rather bleak industry. So I took my appreciation for landscape and applied it to surfing, which is a sport that I knew and loved. But landscape remains a really important part of what I try to do, which is to be in nature, be outside."
This weekend, a highly unusual show of Burkard's works will be on view in Huntington Beach as part of the U.S. Open of Surfing. It will consist of a series of his images displayed at a miniaturized level (about coin size) in a so-called "Gallery for Ants" at the Shorebreak Hotel on Pacific Coast Highway. The images will be viewable with a special lens called an Olloclip.
"It's kind of a funny experiment," he says. "It's literally the smallest gallery ever."
For Moment of Friday, Burkard has chosen a video that is, not surprisingly, water-related: the trailer from "DamNation," a documentary released in the spring about the effects of dams on wild-river ecologies and the movement to remove dams on some U.S. rivers.
"I've never had a political agenda as a photographer," says Burkard. "But I appreciate people's efforts in protecting the environment. There is a necessary evil in creating dams. But maybe we can think about tearing down the ones that simply don't help."
Burkard says that his interest in the documentary ties in neatly with the work that he does.
"I consider myself a steward for wild places, places that need to be protected," he explains. "I've always tried to bring people closer to nature. I think people need less to be happy than they think. Maybe they can sacrifice some modern creature comforts to enjoy the Earth the way it was meant to be enjoyed."
"A Gallery for Ants" is on view through Sunday at the Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, olloclip.com and jdvhotels.com. On Sunday at 11 a.m., Burkard will give a talk at the Shorebreak about his work.
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