Daniel Fuller was born in Hanalei, Kauai. His work as a photographer and artist is best understood through his 26 years as a surfer and 13 years as a professional big wave specialist. To experience life through one’s own person, no matter how talented or special, and yet to see it through eyes that are impersonal, is a theme that recurs in his abstract seascapes time and again.
Travelling all over the globe to find the biggest, the gnarliest and the most powerful wave ever seen, seems like a surreal and futile pursuit in and of itself. These epic feats of daring and physical skill usually occur in far-off places where there is no witness; like the remote pipeline break off Tahiti called Teahupoʻo. The point of these exploits is to publish and publicize an ongoing stream of exciting and “extreme” surfing images to feed the magazines, movies and merchandising for ever-growing surf industry. The man who specializes in surfing the north shore of Oahu’s famous “Banzai Pipeline actually sees the ocean very differently than we might imagine.
In Fuller’s work the ocean and the shore are abstracted beyond recognition, to the point that what we see is just color; the composition is a transition from one to the other - dry land merges into the water and the image becomes a part of the liquid experience. The mood recalls some glimmering of collective harmony, the possibility of transcendence.
This symbiosis between man and nature is what gives surfing its “soulful” nature and Fuller’s photographs their meditative quality - the silent pairing of man to the Earth’s primary element. Fuller’s abstractions bring to mind that introspective moment of total confidence and calm that the professional surfer must find before he launches off the peak of those death-defying monster waves. Surfing has always retained an aesthetic simplicity that makes it half sport, half meditation. Fuller channels that vintage quality of early surfing culture when the sport was not about selling sunglasses and bathing trunks, it was a simple contemplation of nature and a way to connect with it.
Fuller’s photographs, whether taken in Hawaii, Tahiti or Sumatra bring with them both sides of what it means to seek out the “extreme” in surfing. The work evokes the soulful beauty of the ocean as well as its intimidating and deadly power. The sensual allure of his beautiful hues of blue mixed with the ominous presence of a body of water whose sheer scale makes it feel infinite, re- mind us just how minuscule and insignificant we are relative to the ocean and the broader context of the Universe.