THE BIG WAVE RIDERS OF HAWAII
A COLLECTION OF COLLODION PLATES PRESENTING ALOHA SPIRIT, HERITAGE & RESPECT
Taken through the lens of Bernard Testemale, this exceptional collection of portraits is entirely captured on collodion plates, using a complex technique developed over 150 years ago. The stunning silver-black results evoke a flash back to the past and are just as unique as unpredictable. Collodion plates being highly sensitive to UV light and changes of temperature, the difficult and time-consuming process requires a fair deal of patience and passion from both photographer and the person portrayed. The success of laborious working hours can never be guaranteed, yet the slight imperfections and unforeseeable outcome make up the charm of these timeless pieces of art.
“It is a kind of rewind”, says Bernard Testemale. “The collodion plate is going back to the roots of photography.”
Picturing the Hawaiian surfing community in its most diverse facets and faces, this also applies for the body of his work. Secluded in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii became the birthplace of surfing more than thousand years ago. In its early days, the sport was accessible to everybody, no matter if male or female, old or young, king or commoner. An extension to the ancient, democratic lifestyle of the Hawaiian people, it was demonized as impure and sacrilegious by Calvinist missionaries in the mid-1800s, almost leading to its extinction. Reintroduced in the early twentieth century, surfing represents much more than a sport today and fascinates people all over the globe whatever their origins and social backgrounds.
In this way, the personalities portrayed for Bernard Testemale’s collection reach from indigenous village chiefs to world-champion surfers and the most iconic big wave-tacklers on the globe, representing a unique cast of individuals that couldn’t be more diverse.
All of them came together on the occasion of the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau event on the North Shore of Oahu thatcelebrated its 30th anniversary this past winter. As the world’s most prestigious big wave competition, the “Eddie” doesn’t only stand out for its extraordinary history and dramatic setup, but also for the unique gathering of surfers drawn to it. United by a deep respect for the Hawaiian heritage and the shared passion for riding gigantic waves, the participants origin from all professional backgrounds and ages. World champions from past and present times such as Kelly Slater, Tom Curren and Tom Carroll meet surfing pioneers like Titus Kinimaka, Mickey Munoz and Clyde Aikau. Organic farmer Kohl Christensen and Hollywood stuntman Mark Healey mingle with the likes of Jeremy Flores and John John Florence, a new generation of surfers currently competing in the World Surfing League. Big wave legends like Shane Dorian and Ross Clark-Jones challenge their Hawaiian peers including the renowned Downing and Rothman families.
A logistical challenge, Bernard Testemale’s work is the most diverse tribute to surfing that has been realized to date. As unique as the group portrayed, the applied technique emphasizes the intangible bond between the “Eddie” community and the ephemerality of the moment. “The Big Wave Riders Of Hawaii” is one of the most extensive collodion photography projects accomplished in recent years.