Daniel Pullen: Surf Photographer

Fueled by his passions for photography and storytelling, Daniel Pullen captures life in Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks. Daniel documents surfing, natural disasters, and the everyday lives of fishermen, educating others about the realities of living near the coast.

AIRED: April 30, 2018 | 0:07:06

[strings music]

- Life here on Hatteras has always been ruled by

the weather.

Whether it's weather moving in,

it could be ruled by the tides.

If the weather is really bad,

and we're in a moon phase and the tide gets high,

you can't leave the island at high tide.

I don't know if anywhere else where weather dictates

your life.

[peppy strings music]

It's important for me to document weather and everyday life

here because there's a lot of people that come to vacation

here, but they're only coming on vacation here

like in the season when the weather is nice.

[peppy music]

The thing that I like about living here the most is just

forever changing.

Obviously the beach and the ocean.

[peppy music]

For me its maybe educating people as to what Hatteras

is like and what it can be like year around,

but it's a really raw place.

[peppy music]

[waves crashing]

[wind blows]

I've been here on Hatteras for 39 years,

about a year two years out of high school,

I started buying disposable cameras

and that's kind of how it started.

Just shooting stuff that I liked

whether it was the lighthouse where I used to sit

in its location or we'd have a like storm of something

shooting photos of the damage from the storm.

Photographing weather was always there.

You had to deal with it.

It's in your face as soon as you step outside of your house.

You have to address it as soon as you leave your house

and hop into the car.

The way I got into surf photography,

I grew up surfing and body-boarding

so I was in it and around it all the time

and that was stuff that I was taking photos of.

[rhythmic rock music]

The feeling that I would get from surfing was,

it's cliché, but I mean yeah it is like a genuine,

it is part of it, like you're in a situation where

you don't necessarily have control.

You're just figuring out a way to maneuver in that

situations where you don't get hurt.

[rhythmic rock music]

When I'm out shooting, let's just take surfing for example,

I'm taking photos of peripheral things

and that might be my friends hanging out in the

parking lot or them hanging out on the beach.

Because there are moments happening there

that are just as important and let's just say

somebody in that photograph might pass away a year

from now.

You've got this image, you've captured somebody's soul

that might mean a lot more to me or their family

down the road.

[rock music]

[slow music]

- Surfing was everything to him, shooting surfing.

But even with surfing, it wasn't just the shot

of the guy coming through the wave.

He was just interested in human stories and telling stories.

When the fishermen project came around,

he took it as an assignment.

- There was an article that was coming out

in a newspaper down here called the Island Free Press.

And it was about Day of the Docks.

A celebration of Hatteras village recovering from

Hurricane Isabel and I was able to photograph guys,

charter fishing and commercial fishing.

- [Kate] All of a sudden he saw that, these guys

are like him.

They're not gonna have a long conversation with you

and he felt like that's how he was

and now he can tell their story.

- To me the Independent Waterman Project is important

because it gives you a glimpse into a commercial

fisherman's life.

Whether it's on the boat or out in the water.

- And then you're seeing, people passing away

and generations now being handed over to the grandson

or the granddaughter and you see this history happening

and you're starting to look back at these pictures

and you start to realize how important it is.

We weren't even aware of all of the hardships that

North Carolina fishermen and independent watermen face.

And as we become more aware of that,

the project takes on so much more significance

because it's become a project of advocacy.

- The life of a commercial fisherman really revolves

around the weather.

Weather dictates pretty much everything for them.

If the weather is bad, fish isn't being caught,

fish isn't being brought back to the dock

and then money is not being pumped into the local economy.

The main purpose for the independent watermen project is

to bring awareness to who are the people that are

commercial fishermen.

For me the focus in photographing

it isn't necessarily the act of fishing.

It's the people that are involved with it.

Yes you have to show the fishing part

but you also want to show them, that's a fish house

with their friends and their colleagues

but their family as well.

There's such a big part of the community

here on Hatteras.

It needs to be celebrated

and also it needs to be protected as well.

- [Kate] It's been so incredible to see Daniel capture

not just the people of this place

but the beauty of this place in such a profound way.


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