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Portfolio 1- Pre-War Surfing Photographs by Don James, No 090

Date: 2004
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Copyright: © 2004 Estate of Don James and T. Addler Books
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Archive series
Object No: ANMS1086

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    Description
    The images in Pre-War Surfing Photographs are the works that mark the beginning of Don James's career. Throughout his life, James continued to perfect his skills going on to take a multitude of elegant surfing photographs, for which he became famous, until his death in the 1990s.

    The four photographs included within this portfolio are Bluff Cove 1937, State Beach 1937, Pre-War Surfing Photographs by Don James - Photograph C and Bluff Cove 1937. Certificates of authenticity for all of the images are included.

    SignificanceDr. Don James from Los Angeles, California was born (1921) and raised in Santa Monica, California, and began surfing in 1935. He was the sport's most widely published photographer during the 196os.
    HistoryPre-War Surfing Photographs

    A strong sense of nostalgia and a yearning for a simpler life are the accompaniments to the images in Don James's Pre-War Surfing Photographs. At the end of the Depression and before the beginning of WWII, James and a small group of friends lived a charmed life in Southern California. When school was out, they roamed the undeveloped Eden-like coast from Malibu to San Onofre, scraping together gas money for their worn jalopies, lugging 90-pound wooden boards to the ocean, sleeping in lifeguard huts and makeshift tent camps in the sand. They lived hand-to-mouth, plucking an endless supply of abalone and lobster from the ocean and raiding nearby orange and avocado orchards at night. What spending money they had came from guiding rumrunners to secluded coves, selling fresh fish to local restaurants, lifeguarding in posh beach clubs in Santa Monica, or acting as stuntmen and extras for Hollywood films. At that time, there were fewer than 200 surfers in the entire state, and James and his friends were inventing a beach/surf culture that would endure for decades.

    In 1936, at 16 years old, James began chronicling those days with his father's folding Brownie camera. For water shots, he would place the camera in a homemade semi-waterproof pine box, rest the box atop his board, and paddle out to the calm water adjacent to the surf. Focal range of the Brownie was limited, and James preferred to keep his frame uncluttered, so many of the photographs have a similar weight and balance. The images in Pre-War Surfing Photographs are the result of his preliminary endeavours, the works that mark the beginning of James's career. Throughout his life, James continued to perfect his skills going on to take a multitude of elegant surfing photographs, for which he became famous, until his death in the 1990s. Introduction by Matt Warshaw.

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Pre-War Surfing Photographs by Don James

    Primary title: Portfolio 1- Pre- War Surfing Photographs by Don James, No 090

    Web title: Portfolio 1- Pre-War Surfing Photographs by Don James, No 090

    Related People
    Photographer: Don James

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