Searching for Meaning in the Waves

With an interest in surf photography, Chris DeLorenzo jumped into the ocean with his camera.

Chris DeLorenzo is an early riser. With projected swell, he’s up by four and at the beach by six. The half-hour drive to his secret spot in north Malibu is pitch black, and he likes to arrive as the sun rises. “The problem with California,” he says, “is that there are these trade winds that come around noon. You have to hit it early.” While the company he keeps on these mornings is local surfers, many of whom DeLorenzo calls friends, he’s more or less ditched the board, favoring the tool of his chosen craft: the camera.

DeLorenzo grew up in New Jersey, where he was first introduced to surfing. Though the Garden State isn’t typically associated with great surf, it does exist there. “Most people just don’t believe it, but it gets really good in the winter,” DeLorenzo says.

His interest in the sport eventually filtered into photography. But it was in Los Angeles, where DeLorenzo moved in February of 2014, that he made his full-fledged transition from an engaged observer to a dedicated photographer, one that didn’t just shoot from afar. He describes the time he first brought his camera into the water as an epiphany. “It’s an amazing experience being able to capture the actual fluidity and clarity of the water. You really get a better sense of understanding.”

Already DeLorenzo’s work has caught the interest of the creative digital community with interviews on Whisper Editions, The Cult Collective and Wes Jones Co. He has worked alongside renown surf photographer Steven Lippman, and he often shoots on commission for Racer Magazine, following rally racer Ryan Millen. Though still young, DeLorenzo has the portfolio of a budding photographer who’s put in some serious hours behind the lens.

“I didn’t always know I wanted to be a photographer, but I knew I wanted to create things,” says DeLorenzo. As an action sport, surfing intrinsically creates “beautiful moments to capture,” he says. “I’m drawn to creating images that are visually interesting, visually stunning.” But despite the recurring motif of surfing in his photographs (when not surfers, his subjects are often board shapers), DeLorenzo prefers to describe himself as “water photographer”. His series entitled “Immerse” — a collection of abstract images of water in different forms and colors — is the culmination of his collective experiences and his aesthetic interests.

Chris DeLorenzo Photography

“I’m not here to show you exactly what you saw,” says DeLorenzo. “There are photographers that do that and do it amazingly. Chris Burkard is one of them — he’ll take you there, he’ll make you feel like you’re right there standing in the image. And that’s an amazing ability to have.” DeLorenzo, on the other hand, wants to “show you something a little bit different, a little bit moodier, whether that’s dropping the exposure or pointing the camera a different way.”

The emotional strength of DeLorenzo’s work shines in its abstract composition, the interaction of color, the play on lights and darks, and a blanket sense of softness that results from shooting at low shutter speeds. “There’s this one image,” he says. “The water is almost black and there’s a lot of these star-looking dots in the water. They’re just bubbles with sunlight reflecting off them. It was glassy the whole day, and that doesn’t happen here in California. It was just me and one other guy out there. Those kind of moments are pretty amazing. You share it with friends, you remember it, you talk about it and you get to record it with a camera.”

Chris DeLorenzo is a commercial photographer based in Los Angeles. To view more of his work, visit or follow him on Instagram at @chris_delorenzo.

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