Kenny Hurtado: The Story & The Work

posted by / Lightbox / July 28, 2011

Kenny Hurtado


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  • Wow

    That was unreal.

  • JH

    Very interesting read. I was a big fan of Kenny’s work during the time he was with the mag- I can still picture those shots from the India story that Pete mentioned at the beginning of the article.

    Best of luck, Kenny.

  • oldmanandthesevs

    rad! well done guys

  • Insane

    Guy took good shots. Surfing needs more creative photographers.

  • tcb

    Good stuff. Inspiring

  • Kung Fu Panda

    In the age of digital, film still winds hands down. if everyone would just slow down for a second, we could all realize that in this current era, we have two beautiful platforms to work with. It’s not an either/or argument. It’s kind of like the e-book debate. Again, both platforms (a traditional book and a Kindle) actually compliment each other. You can still buy Tri-X by the brick. You can still buy Velvia from BH Photo. You can still buy a plethora of rad film gear all over the internet. So, go have fun.

  • Keenan

    amazing photography

  • Kung Fu Panda

    I guess I can’t spell. Sorry, I’m a sporfessional….

  • MauiPhotog

    wow. very interesting story. love his portraits. beautiful work. so much life.

  • Master P

    wow, that was a cool book. thanks guys.

  • Jeff

    And why is he over surf photography? I can name 10 guys he blows doors on that somehow have magazine jobs…

  • Bi-Winning

    Kenny Hurtado fired to pay Dustin Humphrey’s retainer??

  • Foley

    Shows how new I am to this but never heard of him till today, great work, would love to see more. Thanks Kenny

  • sam

    awesome stuff. one of the best articles ive ever read on surfing

  • Wyatt

    Am I a callous a-hole for not finding this especially riveting? I mean, the guy is obviously very gifted, but his arc mimics that of thousands of artists nationwide: guy gets into a subject, guy feels that subject is limiting, guy strikes out to find his calling, has a few rough/broke years, then settles in somewhere? This is not exactly the Rise and Fall of our sport’s savior…it’s not even Dave Eggers. It’s just a dude who takes pretty pictures and had some hard luck for a spell, all of it while still relatively young.

    I wish the guy all the best, but you might wanna reread this piece. Unless I missed the part where he torched the mag’s office, blew his Pulitzer money on GHB then boned the king’s daughter in Bhutan, it’s just a story about a guy trying to make it in art and the common complications therein. We’re just fascinated anytime a story like this involves a surfer.

    But hey, maybe non-surfing artists are fascinated when one of their kind quits working, hangs out at a coffee shop, grows increasingly bitter and pretends to work construction a few days a month? Something to think about anyway…

  • Kaipo Gomes

    Sounds like Kenny has some demons that he needs to get worked out just to survive the day-to-day of life. More a cautionary tale of psychology than creative genius. This story makes him out as some Hornbaker in training talent which he his not. Note: Easy “haters” take a step back and really take a critical look at this. Killer artwork and presentation on this web piece. It really shows how far the bar has been lowered by photographers and what they are willing to get paid. The guy who now sits in Flames chair what are you doing to better things for what photogs are paid? Kenny was good with $500.00 a month?!!!! Say what? Isn’t anyone outraged by this? If not then that is why surf photogs will never get paid fair market value for their work. Surf “ING” has always been the place where Surf photogs get screwed first in their careers. Even when Flame was there it happened. Just ask Pete Taras himself. Now under the Source Interlink banner Surf “ING” is paying far less for a 2-page spread than they paid in 2001. How much you ask for a 2-page spread, full bleed water shot? A Whopping $300.00 for that. You can’t pay too many bills with that. Kenny would be far better off going to Culinary School in San Francisco.

    Whether his photos are good or not is a mute point. He was over it so why keep flogging a dead horse? The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

  • RJL

    KH is the man! Back in 07′ I wanted a print of his iconic Pipe line-up shot, not only did I get heaps of helpful advice but an amazing image thats still on my wall.

  • Dman

    To bad surf photography does NOT pay the bills for most of the guys. Under payment and the over saturation on the web of photos is probably what drove Aicnher out of the game.

    Surf photography is a beautiful art and there are a lot of great ones out there. It does seem that some of the older guys were forced out due to cheap magadvertising payments and too many young guys willing to do ANYTHING to get a shot published.

    If not for Surf photographers surfing would NOT be where it is today!

    show some RESPECT !!!!

  • Kaipo Gomes

    Good on you Dman. It’s sad to see what it has “evolved” to. To go from highly talented photogs like Chang, Hornbaker, Brewer, etc. to the guys shooting today is not even comparable. The reason you see the photos of Carey, he is fully employed by Volcom thus the photos go to “ING”. He doesn’t need the pennies he gets from Surfing. Stacy is fully employed by Billabong same thing there. Carey is a true talent. Stacy is a great water shooter and that is what Billabong hired him for. If you are a shooter with a Mag today you are waaaaay under paid. Look to the salaries of the Pro surfers or employees of the companies for comparison. Why are they so under paid? Most of them can’t negotiate their way out of a paper bag. Thus they take what they are offered.

  • Kenny Hurtado

    Hey Wyatt,

    I don’t think your a callous a-hole. I really appreciate the honesty of your comment. When SurfING approached me about the piece I agreed but I was cautious that it might make me out to be this missing link to surf photography which I am not.
    My story may be unique to people inside the surf world but outside its quite common. Art Forum runs stories on artist all the time who disappear from their craft to find them roofing houses and tying yarn to their testicles instead of painting. Sometimes u just have to jump ship to try and find what it is your after and I wasn’t getting that from Surf photography at the time.
    I would of liked for the article to end with me going off to SF and finding myself in the MOMA or Whitney museum, but that is so not the case. I still have a lot to learn and a lot to figure out with my photography. Things have only just begun.


  • dude

    Right on Kenny. You are really just getting started mate. Keep it up.

  • Nick Carroll

    Hi Kenny well I just liked having a look at your pics again! Best of luck in Memphis and SF and anywhere else you go.

  • KSC

    Hey Kenny…you’re right about Wyatt not being callous, and your reply gives insight into your good character. I actually did find this piece riveting, simply for the way you honestly wrote it and presented your story. You have a God given talent, and I’m sure you’ll find the right avenue to express it. Best of luck in SF, and keep following the light.

  • Chris Straley

    One of greats that only lasted a short while….

  • Mik

    Great vision. Great sense of the environment. And great comment by Kenny above. Life is long. He may be back.

  • Tupat

    Hey Kenny – Nice to get a look at what you have done and what you are doing – We have not heard from you since those Baja days with Hopper – Best wishes with all your ventures man. I still remember the day you walked up to me on the North Shore asking about the surf scene – It was your first time there and maybe even your first day. You have come a long way since your early days. Keep the train going buddy. Best of Luck Kenny.

  • Bretto

    Kenny, I really enjoy your work, then and now. I really appreciate your openness, honesty and willingness to share your story–warts and all. Its refreshing to read such life stories that truly take us away from the facades that publications like your former employer specialize in creating and selling. Kudos for SURFING for not waiting for tragedy to strike to engage a good story. From reading some of the comments, its scary how some people are so jaded, judgmental and simply lack compassion. Good luck with your craft!

  • pether

    Well,those who want the post can have it but shore deamon
    takes time with it. its the zone dispassioned that
    mirrors the moment. taking ones time about others bussiness
    merits salty bubbles of the accent. so those included
    are remembered in the light.