Oahu-based Wayne Levin has spent a career photographing the eerie and mysterious underwater world. Working in black and white, he removes the surface illusions about the ocean and the assumptions about underwater photography. We are all used to the traditional aftershave pipeline shots of tanned heros poised alongside aquamarine waves but here Levin captures a more sublime and authentic aspect to this dynamic sport: the power and guts of the ocean and surfer that belies those few exhilarating moments on the surface.
Levin earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from Pratt Institute in New York. His monograph, Through a Liquid Mirror (Editions Limited, 1998), received the Hawaii Book Publishers Association's award for Book of the Year. He received a National Endowment for the Arts, Photographer’s Fellowship (1984); a Photographer's Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council (1989); and a Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Individual Artists Fellowship (2006). His photographs are widely exhibited and are in major public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Bishop Museum, Honolulu; and the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
“Surfers includes many of my initial underwater photographs in black and white. When I first ventured into the surf I used color film but was unhappy with the results. The photographs were quite murky as the only color that showed through was blue. I decided to try black and white film instead, and was instantly pleased with the quality of the images. The tonality of the black and white film added an abstract level to the work, lending more ambiguity to the photographs. There was also the challenge of photographing in an environment that was constantly in motion. Visibility could go from 100 feet to 3 feet in an instant, as the figures of surfers darted through my field of view. All the surfer photographs were taken while free diving with mask and fins.”