Pro surfer and image-maker Danny Fuller and Julie Gilhart, fashion advisor and occasional wave-rider, contemplate mother nature’s pull and the second life in fatherhood.
JULIE GILHART: Besides being a professional surfer, you’re an incredible photographer and artist. Do you consider yourself equal parts surfer and artist? Do you resonate more with one practice than the other?
DANNY FULLER: Well, over the course of my experiences, I’ve realized that my existence in relationship with the ocean is a life force for me. I’m using the natural elements to enact a painterly performance, and it’s continuing that same relationship or existence I have with the ocean that goes directly into my work. I guess there has always been some kind of underlying artistic qualities there, but I didn’t really know where they were or what I wanted to do with them. So I guess I’m definitely a surfer-artist. I’m just trying to gather inspiration from every possible form.
JG: Would you say that your surfing informs your art? Where does your inspiration come from?
DF: When I first moved to Los Angeles, people thought I was absolutely crazy, but I was there by choice. I was making sacrifices for my own personal experiences or my career, whatever that may have been at the time, and I was in search of experience and new horizons. I real- ized when we were living in New York City full time just how dependent I was on the ocean. The ocean has given me everything in my life and continues to keep me bal- anced. I believe it’s a healing and powerful life force that can enrich our lives in many different ways. I’ve been very fortunate to live that existence.
JG: What are you are you working on now?
DF: My mom’s been really sick. So I actually had an opportunity to do another show and I decided to turn it down. I just wanted to make sure that every- thing that I do, or touch, or put out there, is the best it can possibly be. I felt like I was just really forcing it in terms of making art, so I decided to take a step back, which I’m glad for. I was traveling all over the world to foreign countries and shooting my surroundings: the people, the culture, the land- scape. I did that for years, and found myself modeling a bit here and there. I actually hated being a model, but I was definitely interested in the artistic form of photography. I was exposed to so many great fashion photographers and they were all very kind and willing to share insight with me. That’s really what got me through the day. Over the course of the last year, my work has just kind of evolved. You’ve been to a few of my shows, including my last show, “Meditation on Blue,” and seen how the work has progressed.
JG: You describe the beginnings—shooting photographs of all the great places you were when you were surfing—but your art is much more than that. It’s so developed. Obviously you have an internal talent for art. It’s funny that you hesitated to have this show, because one of the big things in surfing is hesitation. You never hesitate. It’s a different experience in surfing. How would you describe that?
DF: There’s so many different dynamics to my existence. I came from a pretty heavy upbringing. Surfing on the North Shore, there was a lot of violence.
Thank God for my travels, and for just getting out there and meeting other people, to change my perspective on things. It’s hard to say. It’s all one existence, ultimately, and I’m constantly searching for new inspiration and trying to evoke or recreate that same feeling that I’m having while I’m in the ocean. I want to be removed from my present state of consciousness.
JG: Has having a daughter changed the way you approach surfing? I know that you surf those crazy big waves—are you more cautious now?
DF: Nothing has really changed in a sense. Unfortunately for me I’ve witnessed a lot of fatal experiences with personal friends. There’s a lot of ego and jealousy that can happen when you’re a professional athlete, people who want to be “The Guy,” or be on the biggest waves. When I was kid, I was very arrogant, and I wanted to be “The Guy” as much as anybody else. I experienced some- body dying before me, and that’s changed my entire approach. I realized that I needed to be doing these things because I wanted to do them for myself and nobody else. And at the end of the day, no matter what, I would never want to leave my wife and daughter behind. But I guess a life insurance pol- icy would be good. It’s interesting now, having a child, it’s as if everything I’ve ever had before was for my own personal journey in life. And then, suddenly, everything that I’ve experienced in my life was really just to prepare for this moment—the moment of becoming a father. It’s prepared me for everything I’ve gone through in order for me to be able to sculpt this little human.
Photography: Doug Inglish for NeueJournal