By Danielle Warren
ContributorSan Diego is often summed up in three words: sun, sand and surf. While the city is so much more, even these three features extend far further than meets the eye.
Two local photographers, Liz Cockrum and Bill Rastetter, reveal hidden moments involving San Diego’s sandy shores in “Summer Selections,” running through Aug. 29 at Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla.
“Photography is an amazing tool for communication, and I like to use it to expose people to something they might not have been aware of otherwise,” Cockrum said.
In her “Sirens” exhibit, this something is women’s surfing, which Cockrum thinks is outshone by the lives and careers of male surfers.
“The story that I am telling is about these women as individuals - their strength, creativity and dedication to the sport,” Cockrum said. “In surf history, women were mainly represented as beach bunnies and surf accessories. I want to show that women have moved beyond that.”
Instead of bikinis and action shots, Cockrum captures her subjects away from the water and sans surfboards. She also includes environmental portraits designed to tell a story about the women through an exploration of their homes and the objects surrounding them.
Born and raised in Chicago, Cockrum caught her first wave when visiting her brother in Los Angeles six years ago. She returned home with a surfboard of her own and honed her skills on Lake Michigan for a few years until, “I couldn’t take the inconsistent and freezing surf any more, so I moved to San Diego.”
Immediately enthralled by the plethora of women surfers in San Diego, Cockrum envisioned “Sirens” as a way to honor them.
“They are doing amazing things and are really inspiring to me and hopefully to other people as well as I tell their stories,” she said.
For Rastetter, it was the untold story of the ocean itself which caught his camera’s focus.
His “Seascape Series” captures the Windansea ocean outside his La Jolla home at night, using long exposure time to produce vivid colors and muted, surreal seascapes that are otherwise concealed from the human eye.
“The mechanism of leaving my lens open for a long period of time produces many small instances of time all in the same piece of artwork,” Rastetter said. “I have taken individual waves - individual instances of time - and compressed them into a universal image that shows a flatness and color of the ocean that the human eye could never see.”
Rastetter received his first camera - a Kodak Box Camera - when he was 11. Five years later he was working part-time for the government, turning out publicity photos of the Kennedys.
Unlike portraits, though, “Seascape Series” highlights the process more than the subject matter.
Rastetter works with color transparency film, using long exposure times and a camera with “essentially the same technology as available in the 1930s,” to create, in all, a dreamlike scene reminiscent of a watercolor.
As summer winds down and the beaches are reclaimed by locals, the series by Rastetter and Cockrum come at the perfect time to reflect on how sun, sand and surf really are synonymous with San Diego - you just have to look through the right lens.