Jeremy Koreski photographs surfing, among other outdoor sports, but he doesn’t take pictures in warm sunny locales. It’s cold, wet, and sometimes snowing where he is, but the subjects in his photographs never seem to mind. They’re too busy having fun. Bundled up and in wetsuits — with hoods, booties and gloves – they’re all smiles taking advantage of the natural playground their surroundings have to offer.
Koreski grew up in Tofino, British Columbia, a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, about a 1½ hour ferry ride from Vancouver. There wasn’t a whole to do there other than watch TV or play outside. Koreski and his friends opted for the latter. Surrounded by water, surfing and fishing were the activities of choice. At 13 he picked up a camera and started shooting, documenting their outdoor adventures. Koreski still calls Vancouver Island home and his work showcases the lifestyle and culture of the Canadian coast and Pacific Northwest. The landscape is the star of his images, given perspective by the subjects in it.
I met Koreski a few years ago on a fishing trip in Montana I’d been invited on by Patagonia. Among other outdoor brands and publications he regularly shoots for are Adidas, Billabong, Quiksilver, Surfer, The Surfers Journal, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, and ESPN. We caught up a couple of weeks ago to talk about what he’s been up to since we last met and how his work has evolved.
SOS: Your photographs have a tactile quality to them. You can feel the moisture in the air. There are these massive landscapes but there’s always a person or a car or a surfer or something that gives the landscape perspective.
JK: Growing up in Pacific Northwest it’s all about the big landscapes, big mountains, big ocean. I shoot what I see and quite often I’m out there with friends. Whether it’s fishermen or surfers or whoever, I want to tell the story of the landscape, but what they’re doing in it. I think it helps give people more of a connection to the photo when they see a human element in it.
SOS: The viewer feels like they are in the picture.
JK: I’m looking for that. It’s hard to get the first person perspective. Quite often I’m swimming over a reef that’s 3 feet below the surface and there are sea lions chasing me. It’s hard to really sit in there with the camera but I try to get as intimate as possible, no matter what lens I’m using, and bring the viewer into the photo.
SOS: You just mentioned water and you are in the water a lot. Underwater, half underwater – I really like those images where you get that perspective of both being above water and below.
JK: That perspective came from shooting surfing first and foremost. Then I brought it into other aspects of lifestyle photography. Back when I started doing it not a lot of people were, especially in the colder climates — when you’re pulling on a wet wetsuit and it’s zero degrees out and it’s snowing or pouring rain. I became very comfortable in those environments and wanted to bring that point of view to those images. I still love doing that… to be able to show both above and below.
SOS: I’m always so impressed by action sports photographers, because often they are as good at the sports as the athletes they photograph, and doing those sports while taking pictures.
JK: As my photography progressed, being a part of the sport kind of took a back seat and so now for me to grab a camera and go photograph surf is more enjoyable than surfing. Many friends I grew up with are professional athletes. To be working with them on that level and capturing what they do is even more fulfilling.
SOS: I feel like your work has definitely evolved over the last few years. Is that just shooting more or are you seeing things differently or did something happen conscientiously?
JK: I think it’s about diversifying. For the first half of my career I focused on surfing photography and that’s how I created a name for myself. Now I’m just photographing a lot of different things. I think it comes from never saying no to a job. I would shoot food and I would shoot portraits and I would shoot action, aerials – whatever people wanted. So now a lot of work I’m getting is for resorts and you need to be able to photograph the whole spread.
SOS: What coming up? Anything exciting?
JK: I always have a lot of different things going on. I just got back from a steelhead fishing assignment in northern British Columbia, and I’m going to place called Haida Gwaii, just south of Alaska. But I’m really trying to spend the rest of the summer with family. I’m going to do a boat trip with my daughter and my wife. We’re going to cruise up the inside of Vancouver Island for a couple weeks. I’m always working and will definitely have my camera gear because where we’re going there are orcas and there are bears and there are all these things. I’m always trying to capture what we see and experience along the way.
SOS: Not so different from your working life. Great catching up!