Interview: Todd Glaser

Every time I turn the camera on I learn something new, but looking at other photographers' work is always a great way to get inspiration. Photo: Chris Del Moro

"Every time I turn the camera on I learn something new," says Glaser, "but looking at other photographers' work is always a great way to get inspiration." Photo: Chris Del Moro

As a rule, photographers stay out of the picture. They're the guys behind the lens, churning out wondrous imagery; creating abstractions anchored firmly enough in reality to make visions of perfect surf a realistic ambition. But sometimes those shadowy characters are intriguing enough to flip the focus. We decided to put San Diego's Todd Glaser, the proud father of three SURFER covers and the 2009 SURFER Poll Photo of the year under the microscope to find out what makes him tick.

Todd, when and how did you first get into photography?

I started getting into surf photography after borrowing my friend's fisheye and housing on a surf trip to Hawaii when I was 15.  We would trade off shooting one another and after coming home I fell in love with it.  I was very fortunate from a young age to be able to travel and see some amazing waves, so by bringing a camera with me I was able to show my friends at home what it was like.

What do you love about photography, especially about surf photography?

Photography has given me a new way of looking at the world and sharing that with others.  I am so lucky to have a first-hand look at some of the most off the beaten path waves and some of the best surfing in the world.  It is an experience like no other.  Surf photography gets me up close and personal to the waves, people, and places that I may otherwise never knew existed.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

My most memorable shooting experience was going to the wave Greg and Rusty found to shoot them surfing.  It was one I will never forget.  I went from being on the fence to go to a few spots on that swell to going to a place I never knew existed.  We camped. We got great waves, and had a lot of laughs.  Every trip has something memorable, and exciting though.  Swimming in big waves is always exciting!

What are your proudest accomplishments as a surf photographer? It seems that after you won the Flame Grant, the world was your oyster.

My first cover of Surfer is a photo I am proud of.  Something I never thought would happen to me…The best part about what I do is the friends I make and the times we share together.  I do my best to document the waves and lifestyle we live. Hopefully, my images convey that.

What do you do to evolve your photography?

Every time I turn the camera on I learn something new, but looking at other photographers' work is always a great way to get inspiration.  Listening to music gets me excited to shoot, and trying to use simple fundamentals of photography to grow from the foundation up.

Who are some of your influences?

Surf photography-wise I love the work of Chris Burkhard, Scott Aichner, Russo, Trefz, and Flindt, Outside of surfing, my friend Cole Barash has been creating some amazing snow and lifestyle images, Kevin Zacher, Anton Corbijn, Michael Halsman, and Joe Curren.

Has being a professional bodyboarder influenced your photography at all?

It has taught me how to travel, read swells, have fun in the ocean, and to be in the right spot.  I feel like going from a professional bodyboarder to photographer has been a lot of hard work, but it took a lot of luck too.

What’s your educational background, age, birthplace?

Born in San Diego, California March 1 1985, I’m 25.  Graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2003, and then started at the Brooks Institute of Photography in May of 2005 and graduated April 2008 with a Bachelors of Fine Art in Commercial Advertising.

Do you have any interesting hobbies or interests that have nothing to do with surfing?

I like birds.

What’s next for Todd Glaser?

Trying to be in the right place at the right time with camera in hand.  Time will tell the rest…

View more of Glaser's work at