Artist Interview: Jack Brull

With all the fancy new cameras and perfect images that are being created there today, Jack Brull has found himself using those cameras of yesterday to create stunning images that rival the perfection of the latest Canon or Nikon camera. Through analog and lo-fi cameras, Jack is capturing surfing though a different lens. We salute him for his alternative way of thinking and creating a simplistic view of the sport we love.


On your website you say that surfing and the process of photography have a defining common point. Can you expand on that a bit?
Well, for me both surfing and photography require a great deal of focus and attention to the given moment as it occurs. That level of attention or mindfulness presents as incredibly freeing, thereby allowing the individual to experience a deep sense of connected-ness to his or her surroundings. For me both surfing and photography allow for the “lose of self” in the given moment.

How did you get started into photography? Is that your occupational mainstay or just a hobby?
I have always been interested in producing art; however I was not gifted with the ability to integrate visually perceived information into grapho-motor responses (translation… I can’t draw or paint to save my life). As a result of this, I pursued the photographic medium as it allows me to express/articulate a vision I see. While photography is not an occupational mainstay, I’d say it is just as important to me as my day job.

Any formal training?
I studied under a very gifted and inspired photographer, Ron Terner (Focal Point Gallery in New York). Ron taught me everything I know about what makes a good print whether it be in silver, palladium or ink. He also was free with his supportive yet firm criticism of my work. Being open to criticism is so important as it only fosters growth in ones vision. I also studied at the in International Center for Photography in New York.

What type of equipment do you use? Any special processing you use? Process yourself?
I like any type of cheap and crappy vintage equipment I can get my hands on. Expired film, shitty cameras, toys… the more blown out the better. I love vintage Diana clones and old brownie hawkeyes. I process my black and white film, but send out slide film for x-processing. I try to make minimal adjustments to the negatives in Photoshop, but I am not opposed to fixing contrast or adjusting colors a touch. I am definitely not some type of analog fascist. I would rather serve the image as best I can with the tools available.

Your lo-fi photos are unique. What turned you on to this type of photography?
I just love the ragged beauty these cameras can capture. I love the unpredictable nature of the lenses and the light leaky bodies of these cameras. I guess I was also kind of bored with the majority of surf photography that is out there. I’ really sick of laser sharp “surf-porn” that is so evident in today’s surf media. I just can’t relate to it. I like to slow the process down and try to attend to what is happening and be selective. Too much of shooting today is rapid fire seven-frames-a-seconds-type stuff, its just not where my head is at.

Any learning curve to start shooting with “lo-fi” cameras? What are the advantages/disadvantages to using such cameras?
If you have no background in shooting film and don’t understand light and exposures, I’d say the learning curve is pretty steep, as you will get a lot of un-usable photos. You will burn thru film pretty rapidly with minimal results. That said if you are really open to happy accidents then it might be the tool for you.

I think you have to be careful with lo-fi photography as it can be a bit of a cop-out or can come across as cliché if you don’t use the tool carefully. All blur is not necessarily created equal. By the way, I hate the “hipstermatic” and similar iPhone application- completely cheesey in my opinion- You might as well get a funshape. Haha.

Do you have a goal for what you try to portray in your photography?
I just try to capture a mood or an emotion that is occurring in the given moment. Hopefully, the light is right and I frame the moment correctly. When it comes together the images can looks so timeless.

I guess what I am really trying to explore is the everyday surfing experience of the typical, stoked-out but complete average surf freak (insert me here). It is a transcendent thing we do (surfing) and hopefully I can capture a few of these flashing moments of perfection from time to time.

Where do you draw your inspirations from, for both surfing and photography?
As far as photography goes, I’ll just list my favorites in no particular order… Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Josef Sudek, William Eggleston, Bill Brandt and Robert Frank. I can’t get enough of looking at these works.

As far as surfing- I love film footage from the past. Greg Liddle has a bunch of super 8 clips up on his website of classic hull sessions. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched those. I am also blown away by footage from the 60’s (Bruce Browne). I also really love the stuff Nathan Oldfield is putting out in OZ.

As far as surfers, I can’t get enough of watching Derek Hynd and Richard Kenvin and Tom Wegener. Tyler Warren’s surfing is pretty amazing as well. Kidman’s films are probably my favorites though. I am psyched to see Stoked and Broke too…

Do you have a favorite image you have shot in your life/career?
I guess any photograph that pushes me in a new direction is my favorite at that moment. Lately, I have been playing with a leaky old lo-fi water camera. The camera produces real blurred out, and salt-stained negatives that I am pretty stoked on. This avenue is a work in progress and I see the images printed real large on a toothy watercolor paper.

Any special projects you are working on? Any shows/galleries people can see your work?
I don’t have any specific “projects” in the works at the moment. I am just trying to keeping the going. I started Salt Stained Eyes as a personal challenge to my see far I could push my photography and how long could I keep producing images.

In a way the blog was a way to force myself out of a non-shooting, non-seeing place. The blog is kind of like a sketchpad; some shots stick or lead to new things and others are just exercises in pushing through. I try to post up a new photograph that is interesting daily. This can prove to be a bit if a challenge given the use of medium format film (only 12 shots a roll) and our inconsistent and harsh NY conditions. It gets tough shooting in 20 degree weather- its much warmer surfing when its that cold!!!.

I do have a couple of things in the hopper at the moment. I have a series of limited edition photographs that are for sale at Drift ( I selected eight images that were produced over the last year or so and I am doing a ten print run on each picture.

Additionally, I also have an interview that was just published on 9/17/10 as part of a book project exploring the lo-fi photographic aesthetic. The book is entitled “ToyCam: Lo-Fi Photography and it is available thru I was very excited to be invited to be part of this as the publishers spent a long time selecting photographers that were in some way
making an impact with lo-fi stuff.

Lastly, I am totally psyched to be part of a killer article that Andrew Smith wrote for the Surfers Path (Sept/Oct 2010 Volume). The article examines the alternative surf photography scene that seems to be getting traction now. I am very excited to be included with Cher Pendavis, Ryan Tatar and five other photographers. I have three images in the article with a little blurb about my work. Very cool to be part of it, as I like what the Path is doing as late.

As far as photography exhibits/shows, I will be showing some new work at the New York Surf Film Festival along with a great photographer, Tommy Colla. This festival has been a great addition to the surf scene here in New York. Mike Machemer, Adam Cannizzaro and Tyler Breuer have done a killer job putting a top-notch event together. Prior to this event I was part of a three person show in July that went over really nicely.

I am currently looking for spaces to exhibit my work. So if anyone is interested hit me up….I am all ears.

Being on the East Coast, do you feel that you have to work a bit harder to get your photography recognized? Or does the New York/EC scene provide you with the opportunities you are looking for?
That’s a great question and I am not sure I really know how to answer it. In one respect surf photography on the east coast is a bit of a novelty and that has advantages, but in another way there is not that much demand for the work as it is not as much a part of the mainstream culture as other more surf-centric areas. MolluskNY has had a nice impact on that art-surf synergy but all in all surf related art is pretty underground out this way.

I gotta be honest, I haven’t really explored showing my stuff too much as I’d rather spend my limited free time surfing and shooting.

Any other type of art you dabble in?

What’s your favorite wave?
The last one I can’t get out of my mind…. I really like North County San Diego though. On the East Coast we have such a shortage of long period swell – it’s nice to get to surf dp glass swell.

Where would people find you surfing most often?

Long Beach NY. My grandfather taught me to bodysurf there as a little kid and I have been going back ever since. It’s a home of sorts

What’s currently in your surfboard quiver. Favorite board?
My favorite board is the last one I rode, or at times the last one I sold (I hate when that happens., but being a quiver junkie is sometimes wrought with poor decisions and ultimate regret).

My current quiver is as follows:

9’9″ Tyler Pintail
9’8″ Cooperfish Nosedevil
9’8″ Cooperdesigns Malibu Foil II
7’2″ John Cherry Simms 21
6’9″ Josh Hall Long Fish-simmons Quad
6’5″ Pavel Creek Fish
6’3 Point Concept Velo-Simms

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