Gordon Keiter is a Charleston based photographer whose primary focus is on water. We’ve been printing Gordon’s photos for a while now and he’s always sending in beautiful work. We’re grateful to Gordon for taking some time to talk with us about his work, his approach, and his thoughts on prints. You can read the full interview below.
1. When did you first start taking photos?
I started taking photos a few years ago. I got a hold of a 35mm film camera and immediately fell in love. Now I have switched to mostly digital photography.
2. Most of your work that I’ve seen is related to water. How did you get started taking photos in and around the water and at what point did you know that would be the main focus of your work?
Yes that is true, I am completely obsessed with the ocean! It all started when I was in middle school. My best friend and I would spend every chance we would get at the beach surfing. But actually having good waves in South Carolina is pretty rare. We both loved being in the sun and the ocean with our boards so much that it really didn’t matter if there were good waves or not, we just wanted to be in the water. Some days the waves would be completely flat except for these tiny little waves just inches tall breaking right on shore. I remember sitting and watching them and using our imagination pretending that they were big enough to ride and talking about the different “tricks” we would do on each tiny section that would roll through. And usually when the waves are that small they really do have almost perfect form. So when I was given a camera that was the only thing that I could really think of that I wanted to capture. Those beautiful, delicate, yet powerful little moments that most people never even see happening right at their feet. Currently I am not only focused on the “mini waves”, I am doing a ton of traveling and getting into larger surf as well as finding inspiration capturing moments out of the water.
3. I know you have a past rooted in music. Has your experience in music informed your photography at all and do you find those two parts of you ever crossing paths these days?
It is so funny you ask. I have this conversation a lot. It has such a huge impact on the way I take photographs and finding special moments to capture. I fiddled playing different instruments growing up but drums were my main focus. I know I’m not the best drummer in the world, but I have always had very good rhythm. It’s one of those things that I was just born with. And there is a constant rhythm and flow in the ocean. It’s this weird sense of somehow knowing when and where to be at the right time. Sure I’m not always there, and pictures are rarely perfect, but having that knowledge and timing is extremely crucial to produce cool images as well as my own safety in the water.
4. What do you do besides photography? Is there anything else that influences your work?
I started making surfboards a couple of years ago. It’s a slow process but I have made about 5 boards now and have had such a great time. It feels so good to step aways from the computer and work with your hands. It has also made surfing even more enjoyable for me. I look at the relationship between the water and the board so much differently now that I have experimented making different styles of boards. Also, putting so much hard work and time into a board makes riding a great wave that much more rewarding.
5. A lot of people are interested in camera gear. How big of a deal is gear to you? What types of special gear do you have to use for your shots in and under the water?
I am learning that having the right gear is extremely helpful. Especially keeping your gear safe from the elements i.e. heat, salt, water, sand, reef, rocks, travel. I had my camera ripped right out of my wrist strap on a huge double up set at The Wedge in California. Luckily it washed up about a hundred yards down the beach. So I would just say that investing in your cameras safety is crucial. Right now I am using the Canon 5d mark III with a 24-105mm lens inside of a Outex water housing. I also always bring a Gopro with me as a backup but rarely find myself using it.
6. Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. I have always been a night owl.
7. What role has printing played in your work? Have you found that offering prints has changed anything about how people perceive your work?
Printing has been one of my favorite parts in the entire process. The whole thing starts as something tangible… Setting up the camera into its water housing, driving to the beach, putting on your swim fins, diving in, swimming into the surf, visualizing the shot, keeping yourself afloat and attempting to capture that idea. Then you get the files into your computer and start the process of sorting through the images and then editing. I do love the editing process but it can be easy for me to lose touch with everything that it took to make the picture. But then I send them to you for printing and It becomes alive again. I get antsy and nervous and excited all at the same time to see how they turn out on actual paper or canvas, not just through a computer screen. Then the feeling of physically holding the photograph in your hands. It becomes tangible again. Something that is real. Something that you can feel proud of for all your hard work, energy, creativity, and vision. The next best thing is when someone says that one of those printed photographs speaks to them in some way that they now need it in their life. I think that’s what its all about for me.
8. What’s one thing you would pass along to others who are just getting started in photography that you wish you’d known?
Be proud of the work that you do, because it is yours.
9. How can people see more of your photography or buy prints?
I use my instagram account as a creative internet outlet and well as for business purposes, like most photographers these days. You can always find my most recent work here: instagram.com/gordonkeiter
I also have a website that I constantly update: gordonkeiter.com
For print inquiries,