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Fuller Frame

9/21/2009
Daniel Russo

Danny Fuller is full of surprises. Ask him what he does and he'll tell you that he's a surfer, but a closer look at his resume finds him just being modest. After the better part of a decade in both the surfing and fashion spotlight, Danny's changing it up, pursuing the quiet life of a photographer. Proving to be equally adept whether behind the peak or behind the lens, his first show, The Lost World, premiered in New York this past Spring. And while still actively keeping an eye on the weather maps, Danny's also looking for a way to show his work to the rest of the globe.

Upon meeting him two things are clear: First, Danny has a heart of gold. He's genuine and easy going. And second, he has a hell of a gig going. He keeps home bases in both LA and Hawaii, lives with his girl, model Tori Praver, and when he's not rushing Pipe or Teahupoo you may find his likeness in some high-fashion modeling campaign. And then there's the sensitive photographer act he's developing. One thing is certain, a girl can dream, can't she? Anyway, he was recently in New York and I had the good fortune to catch up with him. Launch Gallery»

First, let's talk about your recent sponsor change.
Danny Fuller: Yeah. That was a big change for me just because I had been with Quiksilver for sixteen years and thought I would be there for the rest of my life. Then finally received more of a blessing in disguise and my whole relationship with RVCA and the whole crew over there. I couldn't ask for anything more. They're very supportive of everything I want to do. All in all the whole new relationship with RVCA is great.

So they support your venture to be the next best photographer?
They're very supportive of anything that I really want to do. They have a few people that are on their team, so like myself coming forward with a lot of creative ideas and they're really supportive with everything. Like with my photo exhibition, they were really supportive with that and they've helped me out in many ways. It's a whole new world.

Photography. I want to hear the whole story—how'd all this happen?
I started shooting six or eight years ago while I was surfing. I have always been surrounded by photographers my whole life. I was always kind of interested in it and dabbled in it here and there. Being surrounded by so many amazing instructors at pretty much at any given moment, I thought you know, 'I should start paying a little more attention and start picking up the trade.' And then you know, I have been traveling around the world since I was 15 years old and have been to some of the most amazing locations you can even imagine, I just figured 'If I don't document this, I'm going to forget it all and it will all become part of the big blur.' I mean, I'm really fortunate because I've traveling around the world forever. Even with all the significant or amazing moments that I've had they all just kind of mesh in to one at times.

How did you finally come to the point where you know you wanted to show your work?
I got to the point, when I knew that I had something really good and worth actually devoting my time to put out there. For instance, I've always wanted to have a show. I've been into photography for a long time, but I never felt that there was a particular body of work that I felt was like, strong enough to push and put it out there. So then when I got out there the first night and shot for four or five hours on the full moon, I looked at my photos and realized, 'Ok, you truly have something here and you need to just continue to push forward and do whatever it takes to take it to the top.' In my eyes, taking it to the top was having a solo exhibition in New York City. And then somehow I did that.

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I'm just focusing on my photography and devoting my life the craziest wave I possibly can in the next years here, because the time is now. And if not now, when?

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So then you showed at the Murphy and Dine gallery?
Yeah. It's in Chelsea on 27th street and 11th. It's kind of a funny story how I got involved with Murphy and Dine. I was actually on a surf trip in Fiji a few years ago and Scott Murphy, who's one of the owners actually we had been surfing and hanging out on this island. And then one day he was like, on a more serious note, 'What do you do other than surfing?' And I happened to have my crackberry and I showed him my photos and told him I was working on this moonscape series. I told him I wanted to have an exhibition in the city and I gave him my whole plan. He had nothing to do with me at that point and he couldn't believe the photo. The he was like, 'Honestly, I'm not somebody big or an art dealer but I will do whatever I possibly can to help make this happen for you.' I mean without Scott—he basically enabled me to be where I'm at.

So then what are you going to now? Are you working on a new collection?
What am going to do as of now? Well, I'm going to continue to shoot and build my body of work. I think I've just kind of tapped into what I'm on to right now, which is kind of this whole moonscape series. Obviously there's the 'Lost World' which is one element and I'm going to continue to shoot more and more and in different locations. And I think as of now, I want to take the 'Lost World' series around to different cities. Right now I'm kind of in a unique situation because I'm not represented by a gallery, which pretty much takes you to the next level. It's a good thing and a bad thing. It reminds me of surfing, with sponsors you need to make the right decisions on who you're going to go with and how they're going to portray you and represent you. So, there's definitely people who have interest, but as of now I'm going to try to do something out in the Hamptons and a show on the west coast. Those are shows that I think I could actually handle myself— even if I wasn't with a gallery. But I'm still in search for a good gallery to represent me and take me on an international level.

But now your home base is in LA?
My home base is in LA. That's one thing that people tend to ask me all the time, 'How do you live in Venice Beach?' But, I'm born and raised on Kauai and I've been traveling around since I was a young kid. It's kind of just a happy medium. I spend four or five months on the North Shore of Oahu for the winter season and I get to jump back to Kauai to visit my family as well. Then I'm back in LA, home base, jumping on planes out of LAX left and right.

So are you a professional surfer, a professional photographer, a model? What should I call you?
It's pretty funny, someone once asked me, 'So you are some kind of artist?' and I said 'Somewhat, I guess.' Even at my exhibition I couldn't just straight say, 'I am an artist.' But I'm definitely a professional athlete. I'm the full package, I guess. Every time you see me I will have a big bag with like, six boards and a huge backpack full of cameras.

Funny modeling stories?
I had a time once where I freaked out when someone told me I was going to be shot in a speedo. They wanted to cut my hair, and I was like 'that's fine, cool." And then I didn't think anything of it, the next thing I know I have this faux hawk with like, 10 inch extensions in my hair. That's when I had my little freak out, "I can't be portrayed like this! What are my friends going to say?!"

Let's get some surf talk in here. Latest surf ventures?
I just recently got back from Tahiti and unfortunately the conditions were pretty poor and I had a shocker. Ended up losing first heat. On the positive side though, after I lost, there was a full moon five days later so I hung out and got to appreciate it. Got to get some good photos and enjoy my time.

What about the next generation of surfing? Who are the kids you've got an eye on?
I think the talent pool right now for the next generation is huge and wide and it's all over the world. Particularly where I'm from in Kauai you go to the beach and you'll see about 20 to 40 local boys and girls completely shredding up and down the beach. They're surfing on a level that sometimes when I get down there, I'm like "Okay, you better get it together.' One kid in particular, Kalani David is only like, 11 maybe 12. He's from Oahu. He's pretty much a little freak. He's going to be the next Shaun White of surfing. He surfs, does Demos in the X Games. He's from Hawaii. We don't have the same access to skateparks like kids over here have. He even rides dirt bikes too.

Anything else?
I want to go 100 percent or at least 90 percent with the whole photography, searching out galleries, and all of that, but realistically I have to pull myself back and realize like, "Hey, you're a professional surfer and that's what you've done your whole life." And I love it. I do have a lot of freedom, but at the same time it's like once I had that exhibition I did realized how much time and effort it really does take. I was surfing all the time, but mentally I was devoted to that. Like I wasn't really thinking about anything else. I was kind of blocking out whatever other opportunities there were. But, I'm just focusing on my photography and devoting my life the craziest wave I possibly can find in the next years here, because the time is now. And if not now, when?