Aaron Checkwood On His Passion for Surf Photography

By Kelly Davis

Name: Aaron Checkwood
Course taught: The History of Surf Photography
Born and raised in Oceanside, Aaron Checkwood was drawn to surf photography and made his mark on the genre as photo editor for the magazine TransWorld SURF. His online portfolio captures stunning shots from his hometown as well as popular surf spots like Oahu’s North Shore and Western Australia. Checkwood currently works as a marketing manager for Smith, an eyewear company focused on action sports eyewear, helmets and sunglasses. Though his day job is more business focused, it’s allowed him to get more creative with his photography, which you can check out on his website, thecheckrepublic.com.

How did you get started in your field?
Around 1998, I began as an intern and eventually became an editor for the now-defunct magazine TransWorld SURF. While working as an editor, I was going on trips — even though I despise the way I write — and felt useless just hanging out. So, I decided to try my hand at photography and immediately caught the creativity bug. Thanks to some tips from some very talented coworkers, my photography became better and, eventually, I became more of a photographer than an untalented writer. From 2004 to 2008, I tried my hand at working in the surf industry, only to go back to TransWorld to become the photo editor for nearly five years. The magazine eventually folded and I now do marketing for the incredible sunglass brand Smith.
What do most enjoy about your job?
Originally I was hired at Smith to do both marketing and photography; however, these days I’m focused more on the marketing end and managing the brand’s athletes and ambassadors. It’s really given me insight into learning the business — which is great, but it has also allowed me to change the focus of my photography toward a more artistic view, which is exciting.

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field?
The combination of business ideas and the ever-changing photography field have given me a greater insight into the realities of working for a corporation versus being a self-sufficient photographer. Either way, I feel anyone picking either path needs to do their due diligence as to where the economy is taking that field and if the opportunities exist for the future. In other words, you need to “find the lane” that will be most progressive and most in demand.
How is your field changing? What new skills do people need to stay current?
Digitally. The more advanced anyone is in terms of web and e-commerce knowledge, the more in demand they are. It’s simple.
What do you like most about working for Extension?
Even though my career doesn’t really involve photography anymore, working for Extension allows me to still be involved in a field I’m truly passionate about.

Los Angeles, California, Black and White Film © Copyright 2016 Aaron Checkwood

Oceanside, California © Copyright 2016 Aaron Checkwood

Mike Losness, Cardiff, California © Copyright 2016 Aaron Checkwood

San Clemente, California © Copyright 2016 Aaron Checkwood

Oceanside, California, Black and White Film © Copyright 2016 Aaron Checkwood

Learn more about Extension's photography courses and programs such as Photography: Images and Techniques and Photographic Portraiture.

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