Sometimes the most integral aspects of a craft receive the least attention. This rings especially true in surfboard design where the fin is often overlooked. But theFINproject, a new photo series and upcoming documentary by still-life and renowned commercial photographer (and fully fledged surf addict) Timothy Hogan, is putting the oft-forgotten fin and the forward-thinking artisans and watermen who craft them in the spotlight.
“I thought, ‘I like the look of fins, I want to shoot graphic pictures.’ Then I started digging into surf history and connecting the dots,” explains Hogan. The initial plan to shoot studio photos for fine art prints and book led to his decision to make a full-on documentary. Hogan began to realize that it was the fin that was driving board design, the way people surfed and, essentially, the trajectory of the sport.
Hogan says, “Every major era is all fin-related, even the shortboard revolution,” recounting those boards shrunk from 10 foot logs to the maneuverable boards we recognize on the World Tour today. “Everything—one way or another—comes back to the fin.” After extensive research, Hogan realized the story of the fin and the innovative craftsmen behind it was going untold. Using his remarkable studio photos of various famous and historically significant films as a means of drawing attention to the aesthetic quality of the fin, Hogan is also using his photos to fund his documentary on the personalities behind them.
“Essentially the documentary is about solving a problem and the inventors’ minds—it’s about people who can take an idea and create something,” says Hogan. One of the people profiled is the late godfather of modern surfing, champion swimmer and native Wisconsinite, Tom Blake. With the help of the Surfing Heritage Foundation, Hogan gained access to some of surfing’s most influential (and historical) fins and boards, including one of Blake’s original paddle-boards from the early days of modern surfing.
From Blake’s handcrafted wood fins to computer-aided super fin designs, various eras of surf design are represented. Hogan hopes to appeal to surfers and non-surfers alike, with his brightly colored graphic prints. His mastery of light and composition transforms the fins from utility-based hydrodynamic tools to works of art, and is enough to attract even the most landlocked design lover. With his documentary Hogan hopes to profile the people behind the design and make it as much about surfing as what drives people towards perfection.
Images courtesy of theFINproject