I met Steve way back in the late 60’s when we were just kids and formed a great friendship. The first picture on the left is of Steve (right), and I, probably after a dusty night and an early morning surf check.
We bought our first surfboards with another close mate, John “Batesy” Whitwell and together we all discovered surfing. Our Mums would drive us down the coast on weekends and it wasn’t long before we all tossed in the schoolbooks aneaded for Torquay.
Steve Ryan found his future as a leading surf photographer when he and wife Michele owned and ran the Bird Rock Cafe in Jan Juc. Steve travelled the Surf Coast to surf and search for shots to feature on the brag wall of the cafe. It was a great way to keep the diners entertained while Michele cooked up a gourmet delight. Little did he know one of his trips down the Great Ocean Road would catapult him into the world of a top surf photographer. It was when a considerable swell hit the coast of Victoria in 1985, Steve was waiting on the battle lines and got a shot that would leave his customers in awe and give him that feeling of fulfilment he needed.
From that epic day of surf an opportunity came knocking that gradually built his profile as a surf photographer for the acclaimed Tracks magazine, highly regarded by Steve and much of the surfing community. Steve took more surfing photos and as he became better known, other magazines wanted to share in his work: Waves, Australian Surfing Life, Freesurf Magazine, Surfing World, Deep, Chick magazine, Back Door and Underground Surf.
Later, in the early nineties he was approached by international publishers and gained overseas coverage in international surf magazines as Surfer (USA), Surfers Journal (USA). Surfers Path (UK), Japanese Surfing Life, Surf Session (France), Surf Saga (France), Surfaholic (Japan), Inside Now (Brazil), Surfer Rule (Spain) and Fine Magazine (Japan). Steve was now known to the readers of more than 20 magazines and he was slowly filling up his address book with contacts all over the globe.
Steve now launched his career into the high profile world of the contests that are part of ASP World Tour. Steve soon discovered the world stage was a very different ball game compared to the not so big town of Jan Juc, and faced the competitiveness and pressure of getting the perfect shot on a regular basis. He started building up his frequent flyers. Steve’s first overseas trip to Bali with the Quiksilver Pro was a stop-go venture. He was booked to cover the Pro in Java, but the ASP cancelled it due to unrest in Java. But, some surfers were already there and more were flying in. A satellite phone call from Java gave Steve the news: pumping; get over here! Steve went and came back with THE money shot which was used extensively in the US by his new friends at Surfer magazine. The photo paid for his trip!
Next stop was Teahupoo in Tahiti home of the world’s heaviest wave going. Sweating it out all day in hot competition with other surf photographers, it was everything Steve dreamt it would be: The Greatest Show on Earth. More photos and more of a commitment to travel to selected events with the ASP Tour. On one of these trips to Tahiti, Steve got a very special shot of big Teahupoo, showing the whole circus in action, Billabong got wind of the shot and bought the rights for their worldwide advertising campaign, for two years. Combining a family holiday with coverage of the Quiksilver Pro in Fiji, Steve was delighted when Quiksilver bought a photo and exploited it in their worldwide ad campaign for next year’s contest.
Steve also was chuffed when The Bulletin, in one of its rare surfing moments, ran as a cover shot one of Steve’s Fiji pics. Another memorable assignment was to Mexico in 2006 for the Rip Curl Pro Search Contest, “Somewhere in Mexico”. This was held at a secret location in the far south of Mexico and provided four days of uninterrupted perfect conditions with an incredible swell that produced the best waves ever seen at this secret location. Competitors, judges, photographers and the small crowd lucky enough to be there all said it was the best they had ever surfed/seen in their lives. A photo from this trip to Mexico made it to the front cover of Surfer magazine, as well as posters and Editorial in other magazines. Since then, Steve has broadened his photographic style to incorporate the tourist market and doing Coastal Landscapes, but his major love is still surfing photography of all forms.
From major events to special one-off assignments for individual surfers who want to built up a personal portfolio. Steve continues with the bread and butter work supplying advertising material to the bigger surf companies like Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Billabong etc.
Of late, Steve has been doing less travel and more photography in his local area. Many locals have Steve’s photography on their walls at home and he has also built a solid business photographing travelling surfers ripping in his own backyard on the Surfcoast. He is often seen at his favourite breaks with the long camera lens pointing towards the surf at the side of the cliffs at Bells Beach, Winkipop and down south at many reclusive spots. Steve is also involved with studio, events photography, as well as building up his Coastal Landscapes.