Steele takes painter's approach to documenting surf life
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 29 August, 2017 - Born in San Antonio, Texas, Steele grew up skateboarding and surfing around Corpus Christi until the age of 20. A prominent name in action sports photography, Jon Steele built his career by combining passion, inspiration and creativity. As a two-time photo editor, full time freelance photographer, writer, filmmaker and artist his 12 years of experience in the editorial trenches of niche magazine departments and online publications have earned him a solid reputation.
Steele secures his traveling lifestyle by selling his work to the industry's top companies as well as contributing to the top surf publications around the world. Many of his globe-trotting excursions include off-the-beaten-path ventures of the Galapagos, Jamaica, Alaska, Indonesia, Italy, Fiji and Panama. Steele’s work history includes positions with esteemed publications such as ESPN, “The New York Times,” “Men's Journal,” and more. He recently opened up his own gallery with Wade Koniakowsky and John Olvey.
Pipe © Jon Steele
Where are you from and what do you shoot with?
Corpus Christi Texas. I shoot with a Canon 7D’s ,CPL Water housings, GoPro’s, LumeCubes, Super 8 Cameras and Bolex and my friend's Red Camera when he lets me! hahah
How did surf photography start for you?
Surf Photography started for me around 19 years old when I was introduced to a camera by a late girlfriend on our trips deep into Mexico. Her father was a journalist down in Laredo who ran his own political magazine and had his own darkroom. I was aspiring to be a painter at the time and after documenting a large swell with the camera I realized, one could take a photo of the spot and paint it later at leisure from the image captured by the camera.
Tia Blanco © Jon Steele
Name one photographic image you saw that changed the way you approach photography.
The image of the Nguyen Lem being shot in Saigon by Eddie Adams. That image spoke to me when I was young and trying to push the limits of oneselves’ perception of the world. It wasn’t pretty it isn’t positive but its real and as a photographer you must keep watching in order to get the shot. If you look away you have missed it. I would liken it to being a lifeguard/ first responder, when others are running away from something we are running to it. Not a paparazzi style but as a historical documenter. That's how I feel I have treated this tenure of my work, capturing moments in time that mean something.
Puerto Escondido © Jon Steele
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
The most rewarding/ proudest moment of my photography career has been the ability to becoming my own boss. Having the freedom to enjoy my life, to travel and photograph the subjects I choose to document is the highlight of my work, as well as the biggest challenge. I’m blessed to have amazing clients and have worked hard to see the world, which is exactly what I had set out to do leaving Texas many years ago. Thirteen countries, three oceans and countless waves later, I am grateful to have earned the respect of my coworkers, colleagues and athletes. I’m happy with my life and what I do and hope that my teachers, mentors and friends are proud as well. The challenge is remembering what time zone and country I wake up in, maintaining relationships and being in town long enough to call one place home.
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