The Life and Progression of a Surf Photographer

Photographer Brian Bielmann takes us under the waves at TEDx Honolulu with his inspiring images and stories. Early on in life, Bielmann was arrested by a love of surfing – it was his heart’s true passion. Knowing that he needed to work as well, he taught himself to be a surf photographer, so he’d never have to leave the water. In this video, he tells his incredible story:

Describing the terrible injury that started him on his photographic path, he illustrates, just as his work does, the explosive power of water – not only its sheer strength of force but its power to change lives as easily as it changes a rocky shoreline, and its magnetic draw that he, for one, could not resist.

He talks about Andy Irons, a close friend of his, and a fellow surfer whose tragic death rocked the community. With a little bit of difficulty, he relates to us the pain of that day, and the grief that compelled him to make a video slideshow of his fallen comrade – a video which, before he knew it, had received over a quarter of a million views, with praise and thanks from people all around the world – including Irons’ own mourning family.

For the first time, he realized the power of photography to touch people’s hearts.

surf photography

The amazing surges of the waves on the surface, the way they fracture and break, is reminiscent of classical Japanese art, but Bielmann’s favourite shots are the ones he dives below to get. Moving underneath the crashing surf, he finds incredible, bizarre, and beautiful behaviours of water in its most chaotic state. He tells us his amazing stories of the world of surfing, through his words, and through his photos.

surf photography

In a move quite different for this field, Brian Bielmann will sometimes shoot in black and white, creating shocking abstracted forms like storms brewing under the sea, while the movement through water is inescapably graceful, even in the most violent movement. The video ends with a tale of a surfing trip to Peru – one that would be combined with a documentary project for Operation Smile, an organization of medical professionals dedicated to helping correct cleft palates in children.

The importance of this project became inescapable, and through it, he postulates about what is really possible in our lives – how much we can accomplish in the world, just by following our passions, being inspired, smiling, and passing it on.

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