How many humans on earth would have the privilege of seeing this angle if not for men like Russo?
Daniel Russo, thirty-ish, from Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore, is the inspiration behind this series. Y’see the opening shot? Classic Russo. Ten-foot Backdoor and the animal is treading water in the fire zone, diving just under the lip and in front of the surfer, in this case Hawaiian Jamie O’Brien. How many humans on this earth would have the privilege of seeing this angle if not for men like Russo?
Russo was born to shoot water photos. His Dad Larry was throwing him into closeouts at Pupukea sandbar when he was three. At five, if there was a swell he’d skip first grade and swim out to meet his pops at Pipe. Aged 10, he bodysurfed a 10-foot mid-summer swell. Over the past half-a-decade, Russo has created a body of work that is intimate and everlasting.
This series of photos, below, are from Daniel’s early years, all shot on film, all using the ancient Canon 630 wrapped in a small housing.
To what or who do you attribute your success?
I don’t try to force anything. I don’t try to direct anything. There are certain surfers out there who like the same type of waves that I like and I make sure I’m there with them when the waves are pumping.
Who are these surfers?
Nathan Fletcher Reef McIntosh Jamie O’Brien and recently John John Florence. There’s no science. If you have good surfers and the waves are pumping, and you get in the right spot, you get good images. Everyone always trips out that I’ll swim for three, four, five hours, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get a good image.
Why is water photography important?
I feel like a lot of the surf industry doesn’t take it seriously and doesn’t value it for what it is. But, it’s important because it really captures certain moments and a true perspective. From the land you can get some great shots, but it’s in the water, when you’re hanging in the lip or just out on the flats looking at a surfer on a wave, well, there’s nothing else quite like it.
What kind of drunk are you?
Ha! Depends. I get an angry drunk on. It depends where I’m at. A lot of times, I’ll be having a good time but I then I start chasing all the girls and I start trying to fight everyone.
What are your favourite drinks?
I like Jaeger a lot. And, I’ll definitely get in on the whisky. Black label whisky a lot and then I drink a lot of wine a lot of times.
Ever tried to fight the wrong person?
A couple of times, in places and with people I’m not familia with. I used to drink a lot and I got myself into way too much trouble. I tried to mature on that level.
People who grew up on islands love to fight.
There sure is something about it. It’s in my blood, too. My grandpa was a street fighter and he died from a brain tumour from fighting. My dad’s Irish-Italian and he’s a short guy with a temper on him so he was always getting into fights when he was younger. I have his Irish-Italian temper.
What’s your final word on the art of water photography?
When you’re on the beach with a camera you’re a spectator, you’re a tourist. When you’re in the water, you’re involved. You belong to the moment. It’s like a painter spends hours on a single brushstroke just to get it right. Water photography is definitely an artform. And there’s a very select group of people who beling in this niche, as an artist.