Last night, the Follow the Light Foundation awarded its coveted annual grant to Australian surfer and photographer Ray Collins. The event was held at the Surf Heritage Foundation's headquarters in San Clemente, a veritable museum of vintage surfboards, photography and...well, heritage. Representatives and industry leaders from major companies like Billabong, Oakley, Hurley, Surfing Magazine and more were there. The usual buffet of catered Hawaiian BBQ that feeds the bellies at most surfing events was there too, as was the chest of ice-cold premium beer, water and soda.
As a sort of father figure to the many lost boys of surfing, Larry was known as a confidant with a wise, love-filled hopefulness in his nature. Today, the Foundation strives to carry on Larry's legacy and vision of artistic excellence, as well as his spiritual and cultural contributions to the world of surfing. Each year, they award a grant ($5,000 this year) to a young photographer, in order to help launch and inspire their career. Out of many applicants, the pool is narrowed to just a few "finalists," each of whom submits a slideshow and a series of essays to be showcased at the awards event.
Ray Collins started out his career far from the beach. Buried in a hole "deep in the earth's crust," as he explained to the crowd last night, he worked his butt off in an Australian coal mine. Desperate for work, he called the foreman every day for two months before annoying and pestering his way into the job. MC and world-famous photographer Aaron Chang pointed out that the same determination and hard core work ethic that enabled Ray to land and work the mining job will enable him to pursue a career in surf photography. "The wages are about the same, the hours are about the same, and the lifestyle...that's pretty much what it takes," said Chang.
Chang drew a parallel between the young Collins's work and that of Larry "Flame" Moore--the patience, ethos and talent required to capture a perfect, spontaneous symphony of different elements of both nature and humanity. This dream was also described earlier in the evening by finalist Myles McGuinness, who confessed that the idea of capturing a frame that is at once "simple and infinitely complex...instantaneous and timeless..." keeps him up nights. In passionate, low tones, Chang spoke of every great surf photographer's insatiable quest for that perfect photo that exists somewhere out there.
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In front of the whole crowd, Ray Collins interupted Aaron Chang and asked, earnest and wide-eyed, "is it possible?" There was a long pause as the gathering of people watched this private moment between the two artists. Chang smiled and said softly, "for you, I think it's possible."
To purchase prints, find out more about Larry, and to donate to the Follow the Light Foundation, visit http://followthelightfoundation.org/. One can imagine, with a few finallists from the east coast of the U.S. and a grant recipient from Australia, airfare poses one of many daunting costs. For those who might be interested, or are fans of Larry's work and legacy, the Foundation is asking for financial support to further the art of photographer in the surfing world, even with their impressive list of sponsors from the surfing industry.
Photos of Larry by Aaron Chang.