Divine, Jeff


Durable, good-natured surf photographer and photo editor from San Clemente, California; a steady surf world presence since the early 1970s, and long regarded as one of the genre's most versatile and dependable talents. Divine was born (1950) in San Diego, raised in the wealthy beach town of La Jolla, started surfing in 1964 and bought his first camera the following year; he soon began selling prints to his high school surfing friends for a dollar apiece.

Surfer magazine published Divine's work for the first time in 1968; three years later, the 21-year-old was pulled aside by Surfer photo editor Brad Barrett and told that he was about to become "the new Ron Stoner," in reference to the brilliant Surfer lensman who had redefined surf photography in the mid- and late '60s before being sidelined by schizophrenia. Divine never burned quite as brightly as Stoner, but he nonetheless became one of the sport's great all-arounders, shooting both land and water action shots, along with portraiture, landscapes, and candids. In the early and mid-'70s, Divine was often described as the best photographer in surfing, along with Steve Wilkings and Art Brewer.

Divine's global travels took him to many virgin surf breaks over the years, and he was always aware of what his presence meant in the lineup. "A camera is like the first bulldozer. If the surf's on, and the shots end up tagged and ID'd on a light table somewhere in Orange County, it's the beginning of the end for that break. A crowd is on the way 10 minutes after the shots are published." Divine for the most part avoided naming breaks that hadn't yet been exposed.

Divine has been a photo editor for most of his career, with Surfer from 1981 to 1998, then The Surfer's Journal. He also wrote dozens of feature and column articles for both magazines. Masters of Surf Photography: Jeff Divine, a luxurious 236-page hardcover retrospective of his work, with extended captions written by the photographer, was published by the Journal in 2000. Surfing Photographs From the Seventies Taken By Jeff Divine and Surfing Photographs From the Eighties Taken By Jeff Divine were published by Adler Books in 2006 and 2011, respectively.

Divine's work has been featured in a number of gallery exhibits, including "Surfing's Golden Age," at MB Art in Los Angeles, "Seventies Surf Photograpy by Jeff Divine," at the Oceanside Museum of Art (2007); "The Shortboard Revolution," at the California Heritage Museum (2011); and "A Surfing Life: Jeff Divine," at Gallery 169 in Los Angeles (2012).