Imagista first bumped into photographer and surf fanatic Tim Hogan on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii during the Triple Crown of Surfing. For those of you who have not yet been to Hawaii (we say “yet” because it’s a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list), take our word that it is, in fact, quite a special place. Add to that the energy of the Triple Crown and good things are bound to happen. Meeting Tim Hogan was another one of those many good things. There is a certain mysticism to Hawaii and that aspect only becomes amplified on the North Shore. But, as beautiful as the North Shore is, it can also be intimidating as a surfer.

Timothy Hogan’s ‘The Fin Project’ is, in many ways, reflective of surfing and of Hawaii. Not just because the project involves photographing surfing fins. That’s part of it. But also because the project is motivated by a passion, spirit, and a lifestyle rather than by profit or fame. Surfers seem called to their sport as Tim seemed called to this special project. Tim himself is an avid surfer and, as we learned, photographing and documenting surfing fins has only deepened his love of the sport.

Imagista caught up with the unassuming photographer over the phone in L.A. to talk a bit more about the project and what he has in store for it.

Imagista: The Fin Project appears to be a cross between your two loves: photography and surfing.

Tim Hogan:  Yes, that’s totally accurate. The Fin Project is really a way of merging my two biggest loves.

Having some conversations with a couple of fin builders and hearing some of the stories behind making fins really got things going for me. Before these conversations fins were just objects to me. When speaking with Larry Allenson in particular I was really amazed. He’s so passionate about what he does. I couldn’t believe all of this amazing work was being generated by this one guy. His story was incredible. He’s such a character and after speaking with him I began to see the depth in everything around fins.

Larry opened me up to a new world and way of seeing fins. I learned from him how much fins and the process of making them has evolved. So the idea behind The Fin Project has evolved the more i’ve learned.

Imagista: How much of The Fin Project is historic documentation and how much of it is just pure photographic art?

TH: The large majority of the fins I’ve photographed are older fins. That’s where surfing is right now anyways. People are digging stuff up and trying new things with them. There’s a huge amount of flexibility these days in terms of what people are riding, as well as riding styles. It’s almost like looking back at old photographs and seeing something completely different because your perspective is completely different.

Imagista: How has the project affected your personal view of surfing?

TH: It’s definitely opened me up because I was never in the surf industry prior to becoming involved with this project. So now I’m able to connect with people and experience surfing in a more involved way and to connect with shapers and craftsmen whom I respect or have known about, seen in magazines, or whatever. That process is incredible to be involved in.

Imagista: How much of the project is social, then?

TH: For better or worse, I’m a really internal person and without this kind of project I would not be as involved and as engaged with other surfers. The project gets me out there and affords me all of these wonderful, meaningful exchanges and introduces me to all of these great characters.

Imagista: How many fins have you photographed to date?

TH: Probably about one hundred and fifty. I think we’re probably less than a quarter of the way through.

Imagista: Is there anything about this project that’s surprised you?

TH: Well…for a bunch of guys who pretty much hang out and think only about surf… (laughs!)…ok, that’s a bit of a generalization…but I’m surprised by how everyone seems to remember everyone’s first name and last name, and all of these details in their lives. Everyone in the surf industry seems to have this encyclopedia-like knowledge of the sport and its history.

Imagista: How has the project affected your surfing?

TH: I’m pretty much a single fin kinda guy but after working with the Campbell brothers there’s now a Bonzer in my quiver. So there’s that kind of opening up and experiencing things I never would have experienced any other way. There’s a real opening up for me. It’s like the difference between reading about someone or something in a magazine, then actually going to meet and talk face to face with the person. I’ve really appreciated how open this industry actually is. You can go and meet one of your childhood idols relatively easily.

Imagista: How has the project affected your photography?

TH: Getting into the whole motion aspect of things has been great. Making the trailer for the film, and shooting in Hawaii has opened a whole new world for me as a creative person. And then photographically speaking I’ve really enjoyed the simplicity of it all. Really I’ve been photographing fins as artifacts. My approach has been very documentarian and idealized rather than overly stylistic. Shooting fins has opened me to how I look at things that I photograph.


Photographer: Timothy Hogan