Aaron Chang

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Aaron Chang (born August 9, 1956)[1] is an American photographer specialized in surfing and ocean photography. He spent 25 years as a senior photographer at Surfing Magazine; he was an early photographer to practice the act of shooting waves with a wide angle lens from the water.

Chang later focused on fine art photography.[2] He owns two art galleries that show his work in Solana Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Chang splits his time between Carlsbad and Carmel, California.

Early life[edit]

Chang was born in 1956 in Tucson, Arizona,[1] the eldest of Howard and Marilyn Chang's two children. Aaron's father, a math teacher, introduced him to photography at age 9 when he gave him a Bellows camera. The family moved to Imperial Beach, a region of San Diego, California when he was 11.[3] In high school, Chang swam competitively, surfed and worked in the lab developing photos at the high school where his father taught.[4] He graduated in 1974 and after moved to Oahu.


Surf photography[edit]

Chang worked in Waikiki taking pictures of tourists at luaus at the Royal Hawaiian and on boat cruises.[4] He then moved to the North Shore, where he worked as a photographer shooting postcards. Three years after, Larry Moore from Surfing Magazine saw Chang's photography[5] and put Chang on staff at the magazine in 1979.[6]

In the 1980s, the photography industry saw new motor drives, improved lenses and higher-quality film stock. Chang applied these techniques to shooting the sport of surfing. He was one of the early photographers to use a camera in the water to capture surfing photography.[6] Chang's most significant contribution to early surf photography was the use of an ultra wide angle lens in the barrel in big waves, something that no one had tried before in the 1980s.[1]

Chang was a senior photographer for 25 years at Surfing Magazine;[7] his photos were selected for 38 magazine covers. His shot of an arcing wave at the Banzai Pipeline appeared on the cover of Surfing Magazine in 1985; it was the first significant empty wave shot with no person featured.

Chang has traveled to 50 countries for book projects, films, and travel journalism assignments.[6] His work has appeared in Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, GQ, People, US Weekly and Elle.[8] He has shot a variety of subjects, including poets, surfers, bikini models and Nobel scientists, and elephants in the Namibian bush.[9]

Chang was selected as one of the photojournalists for seven "Day in the Life" book projects.[1][10] His work has been included in illustrated surfing books, including Pure Stoke (1982), The History of Surfing (1983), and Surfing: The Ultimate Pleasure (1984).[1]

He was named one of the top five sports photographers by American Photographer Magazine in 1985.[9] Chang has been featured on a variety TV shows, including networks such as PBS and Fuel TV.[citation needed] He is a subject in Doug Walker's surf documentary Lost and Found (2011).[citation needed]

Other projects[edit]

Chang has worked on commercial accounts, including Polaris Industries, Yamaha Corporation, Levi Strauss & Co., Billabong, and Nike, Inc..[citation needed]

In 1994, Chang launched Aaron Chang Clothing, a beachwear line. The California Surf Museum also housed an exhibit titled Aaron Chang: Water Housings and Cameras and Hobie: Shaping a Culture in 2012 showing all of Chang's underwater camera housings used to capture his in-the-water shots.[11][12]

Fine art photography[edit]

In 2009, Chang shifted to work in fine art photography with a focus on arcing waves, the sea and light. Chang's photography has been included in the San Diego Natural History Museum at an exhibit called On The Trail of Ansel Adams.[13] This exhibit highlighted black and white, nature-based imagery from multiple photographers that were inspired by the photographer Ansel Adams.


  • San Diego: Through the lens of Aaron Chang.


  1. ^ a b c d e Matt Warshaw. "Aaron Chang" Archived 2017-03-04 at the Wayback Machine. Encyclopedia of Surfing. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  2. ^ Hochman, David (6 September 2016). "A $12,000 California Coastal Photo Safari With A Surf-World Legend At Four Seasons Residence Aviara". Forbes. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  3. ^ Erica Andrews (11 September 2013). "Surfing and Salvation". Caring Magazine. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b Ann Wycoff (28 February 2011). "Aaron Chang Illuminated". San Diego Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  5. ^ Dennis McLellan (12 October 2015). "Larry 'Flame' Moore, 57; Renowned Surf Photographer 'Defined a Whole Genre'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Hinman, Wendy (May/June 2016). "Seize the Light". Carlsbad Magazine. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  7. ^ Louis Shook (23 May 2016). "Appreciating the Gift of Life". Carlsbad Lifestyle. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  8. ^ Almond, Elliot (April 2009). "Surfing: Mastering Waves from Basic to Intermediate". The Mountaineers Books. pp 174.
  9. ^ a b Matt Warshaw (16 October 1994). "A Greater Power : His talent may be matched only by his ego. But Aaron Chang still bows to the ocean that made him a star among photographers.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  10. ^ A Day in the life of America pp. 71, 252, 263 by Rick Smolan, David Cohen, Leslie Smolan – 1985
  11. ^ Museum Exhibit (31 March 2012 - January 2013). "Aaron Chang: Water Housings and Cameras and Hobie: Shaping a Culture" California Surf Museum. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  12. ^ Scofield, Boyd (14 March 2012). "An Evening With Aaron Chang". Transworld Business. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  13. ^ Museum Exhibit (January - March 2013). "On the Trail of Ansel Adams" San Diego Natural History Museum. Retrieved 24 August 2016.

External links[edit]