- Associated Press - Saturday, October 1, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Photographer Chad Dennis grew up in Iowa, where, to point out the obvious, surfing was not a part of his life.

But he was always drawn to the water - the lakes, streams and rivers of his Midwestern youth - and felt a peacefulness when he was around it.

That feeling was amplified when Dennis moved to Northeast Florida a dozen years ago and added an ocean to the list.

A few years ago, the Atlantic Beach resident took up surfing.

He immediately felt embraced by the surfing community, he said, and, just as quickly, developed respect for the passion and devotion so many surfers showed for the sport.

This summer, Dennis decided to honor the surfing lifestyle and some of its most committed members with a portrait series.

The result is “Salty Dogs,” which will be on display from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at The Museum and Gardens on Boulevard Center Drive. The exhibit, which includes all 106 portraits in the series, is free.

“Salty dog” has several definitions, Dennis said, and is typically used in reference to pirates and experienced sailors.

For his purposes, the term applies to people “who live by and love the ocean, and have a dedicated passion for riding the waves,” he said.

How dedicated? Everyone featured in the portrait series has been riding the waves for 25 years or more.

“I wanted to photograph the people and culture that I love so much,” Dennis said. “The reason I chose 25 years is I wanted to show it’s a lifestyle and commitment.”

His first shoot was in July. He’d bring photo equipment and a tent and set up near the north jetty at Huguenot Park, the Mayport Poles at Hanna Park, the beach access near 10th Street in Atlantic Beach., or the Jacksonville Beach Pier, where he finished taking his final photos for the series a little more than a week ago.

Finding “salty dogs” was pretty easy, he said. Dennis used Facebook and Instagram to let people know where he’d be on a Friday or Saturday morning, and surfers began spreading the word to other surfers as well.

“For the most part, it’s been people reaching out to other people, and then we connect,” he said.

On the back of each release form, Dennis asked his subjects to complete the phrase “What riding waves means to me is …”

Their responses are included in the exhibit.

Many of the quotes, he observed, were about “a spiritual connection to nature and the Earth, and a cleansing of the soul.”

They tended to reflect similar feelings expressed in a variety of ways.

“That’s what makes it fun,” Dennis said.

“Salty Dogs” has been a labor of love for Dennis, who, two years ago, did a portrait series that focused on the stigma of mental health. He felt a personal connection to that project as well, since members of his own family had periodic battles with depression, and he exhibited the portraits as a fundraiser for local mental health advocacy group.

This series serves a different purpose: It’s strictly a celebration.

For Dennis, the process of creating “Salty Dogs” confirmed “the genuine sense of community among surfers,” he said.

“It’s something that you always hear about. This is a genuine family, and it’s amazing that they have been sharing the same passion for as long as this group has.”

___

Information from: The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, http://www.jacksonville.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide