Los Angeles photographer Steven Nereo began taking snapshots between waves while surfing Malibu and Venice Beach. “I got a waterproof case for my phone and started shooting in the water. It was really fun, so I wanted to do more. I just went out and bought a film camera and a waterproof housing on Craigslist. It was a dive housing, which is weighted to compensate for trapped air, so when you’re 20 feet underwater, it’s stationary. Even without the camera and the weights, it’s 15 pounds. I finally figured out that what I needed was called a splash housing for shooting above the water.”
Perhaps it’s these heavy beginnings that give his photos their immersive quality. Viewing his oversized prints feels like floating in the water, not standing on a beach. He refined his process through trial and error. “As someone who lives in Southern California, surf photography just comes into your life. You walk into the lobby of every building, and you see a lot of sunsets and waves. It just all felt like the kind of art you see if there was a beach photo in Bed Bath and Beyond. I wasn’t interested in pictures like that. I wanted more shapes and color. I like the light on the water.”
Nereo’s work often resembles color field paintings more than photographs. He tracks the weather and watches surf cams for ideal conditions for photography, if not surfing. “I like it if it’s a really hot January. The waves are kind of flat, and then the ocean gets really still. You get a lot of cool patterns with the light. It’s like this dead calm. It doesn’t happen that often here, so you really have to watch for when it does.”
See more of Steven Nereo’s work at stevennereo.com.
This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Five.
Jen Abercrombie is a lifelong Californian with a love of cycling and the outdoors, who spent 12 years as an independent retailer in Los Angeles. She has a background in graphic design and works with active brands in social media and content creation. A self-described “word nerd,” she appreciates a clever caption.