Growing up in Iowa, photographer Chad Dennis was always drawn to the water. Whether it was sitting at the lake, fishing or hanging out down by the river, he always found the water had a calming effect. When he relocated to Jacksonville Beach in August, 2004, the ocean was a huge draw.
Dennis was inspired by the ocean to create the Salty Dog Portrait Series, capturing the essence of longtime wave riders and their spiritual connection to the sea. He will showcase the new series from 6-10pm Oct. 1 at The Museum, 4160 Boulevard Center Dr. There will be a small admission fee at the door.
“Once I caught my first wave, my life changed. Which I think is true for so many surfers. I was instantly hooked,” he says. “Being a person that loves history, I wanted to learn about the surf history of my local area. Since I couldn’t really find anything about the surfers that grew up here, surf every day here and really made the surf culture that exists, I decided to document it.”
The portraits will be displayed in 25×30 and 36×38 prints accompanied by a personal quote detailing the passion for surfing and the ocean accompanies each oceanfront portrait. Dennis will be on location from 7:30 to 10 am Saturday, Sept 17 at the Sisters of the Sea surf contest held at the Jacksonville Beach Pier to fill his last few slots for before his show. He updates his Facebook and Instagram at Chad_Dennis_Photo with new locations and contact information is also available on his website at www.chaddennisphoto.com to schedule a shoot.
“The subjects of the Salty Dog are people who love the ocean and have shown a dedicated passion to riding waves.”
There are only two requirements to participate; a minimum of 25 years of surfing experience and every subject must get in the water. “The subjects of the Salty Dog are people who love the ocean and have shown a dedicated passion to riding waves. For my artistic vision of this project, it is absolutely imperative that my subject get in the water before I capture their portrait. You have to be salty to be a Salty Dog,” says Dennis. “Everything is shot on location at the beach. I use studio strobes, negative fills, reflectors and wireless shooting to make sure the lighting is consistent throughout the series. The whole point of the Salty Dog is to document the unique and diverse culture of people that love the ocean and have shown a dedicated passion to riding waves.”
The Salty Dog Portrait Series launched in mid-July and Dennis envisions the Salty Dog series as a lifelong project that he hopes to compile into a coffee table book. He would love to partner with organizations like Oceana or the Surfrider Foundation and find a way to tie his project with coastline conservation or other causes. In 2014, Dennis showcased his “100 Portraits Project” to remove the stigma of mental illness. The event was a fundraiser for the Mental Health America of Northeast Florida.
“There is something healing about salt water. It is something that surfers understand on a spiritual level. It is also hard to explain with words but you can see it in the photos. There is a cleansing, or a washing off that happens when you spend time in the water. It lifts your mood, centers you and makes you remember what it’s like to be alive.”
As the show date nears, Dennis encourages anyone with a longtime love of the ocean and surfing to drop in and be part of the Salty Dog legacy. “That is hopefully the value for surfers. But for the general population, hopefully they see beautiful, unique portraits of happy, healthy people, who are active and full of life and it inspires them to find something that they can do for 25, 30, 50 plus years,” he says. “There is something healing about salt water. It is something that surfers understand on a spiritual level. It is also hard to explain with words but you can see it in the photos. There is a cleansing, or a washing off that happens when you spend time in the water. It lifts your mood, centers you and makes you remember what it’s like to be alive.”
I have a friend here in St.Augustine FL , Mark McNally is an RN , still happily married to the same woman, one son and daughter in law whom own and operate a very successful restaurant here locally and a daughter who is a veterinarian. Mark has is in his late sixties and has been surfing his entire life. For approximately the last eight or nine years he has been winds sailing which is much more strenuous. I honestly don’t think Mark misses a day in the water. I would enjoy reading an article about a local man such as Mark. There are negative ions in the air at the beach that are truly healing for the body. Simple explanation without all the technical science, however a true statement.