Chris Burkard (born March 12, 1986 in San Luis Obispo, California) is an American photographer and artist, based in the California Central Coast region. He photographs landscape, lifestyle, surf, outdoor, and travel subjects. Burkard takes a photojournalistic approach to make editorial projects, using multiple media. He uses natural light to capture humanizing moments.
Burkard specializes in photographing in cold places, including in Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, India, Cuba, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, and Italy. Burkard has been named a top travel influencer.
Burkard is a graduate of Arroyo Grande High School. After completing high school in 2004 at the age of 19, Burkard enrolled in classes at Cuesta Junior College. He became exposed to photography as an art form and the idea of composition quickly captured his attention. Growing up near the ocean and participating in water sports such as body surfing, bodyboarding, and surfing, Burkard sought to use photography as a mode of expression in order to highlight the movement of water and document his friends.
Burkard purchased his first camera from a Goodwill auction for $65, and after shooting and developing an entire roll of slide film he realized the camera didn’t work. He then borrowed a camera from his girlfriend’s mom, and began shooting regularly, experimenting with different lighting and contexts. Raised on the cusp of photography’s mainstream transformation from film to digital in the mid-2000s, Burkard is self-taught in both.
In 2006, Burkard shadowed large format landscape photographer Michael Fatali, whose images of the American Southwest desert are published frequently. Later that year, Burkard interned under Transworld Surfing photo editor, Pete Taras.
In the early years of his career, Burkard worked as a freelance photographer on both editorial and commercial projects, amassing a client list that includes American Airlines, Nikon, Volkswagen, Apple Inc, Fuel TV, Burton, Volcom, RVCA, Poler Stuff, Pacifico, among others, as well as having work published on over 35 national and international covers of magazines including Surfer Magazine (both print and digital), The New Yorker, National Geographic AdventureEandSPN.com Starting at the age of 21 and between the years of 2008–2010, Burkard served as the senior staff photographer at Surfline, a global, surf forecasting and content site, based in California. During this time, he was also senior staff photographer for Water Magazine. Beginning in 2009, Burkard was contracted by Patagonia, Inc. as a project photographer. In 2010, Surfer Magazine offered Burkard a position as senior staff photographer, a title he still resumes. Burkard also operates a full service studio in Grover Beach, California shooting commercial and editorial work. Burkard spends time as an educational writer and guest keynote speaker at TED, and IBM.
In 2006, Burkard interned at Transworld Surf Magazine for four months prior to becoming assistant photo editor.
In 2008, at age 21, Burkard earned a position as the senior staff photographer at Surfline, a global surf forecasting and content site, based in California. At this time he also served as senior staff photographer at Water Magazine until his departure in 2010 to leave for Surfer Magazine as senior staff photographer.
After working at Surfline and Water Magazine, Burkard was hired at Surfer Magazine in 2010. As of May 2013, he holds the position as senior staff photographer.
Burkard was born in San Luis Obispo but grew up in Arroyo Grande. He was raised by a single mother; she married his stepfather when Chris was 12 and they joined a family of five. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Burkard lives in Grover Beach with his wife Breanne; they married in 2007 and have two sons, Jeremiah and Forrest.
Awards and recognition
- Morro Bay Art Society Award 2005 - Burkard was awarded the 2005 Morro Bay Art Society Award in 2005. With two large galleries, the Art Center Morro Bay is one of the largest venues on the California Central Coast for exhibiting original fine art and photography by local artist.
- Follow the Light Foundation Flame Grant Winner 2006 - In October 2006, Burkard was awarded the first ever and prestigious "Follow the Light Foundation" grant, commemorating long-time Photo Editor for Surfing Magazine, Larry "Flame" Moore, who died just one year prior. Burkard was able to fund a six-month surfing trip along the California coast, which was later published as "The California Surf Project" by Chronicle Books.
- Red Bull Illume: Illumination and Overall Image Quest Winner 2010 - In August 2010 Burkard became the Red Bull Illume Overall Competition winner as well as the Red Bull Illume Illumination winner for the second happening of the international image quest. This highly coveted adventure sport photography competition occurs once every three years and is narrowed down to 50 finalists in ten categories. The work of the finalists is exhibited in a worldwide tour before revealing the winners in a final grand ceremony
- Look Between Photo Festival 2010 - A photography festival dedicated to the still image, taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia and produced by non-profit Look3, Burkard was invited to participate in 2010
- The World Open of Photography 2nd Place Open Winner 2012 - An international photography competition spanning multiple categories, The World Open of Photography named Burkard the 2nd Place Open Category Winner
- Red Bull Illume: Category Finalist (Spirit) 2013 - In August 2013 Burkard was a finalist in the Red Bull Illume "Spirit" category.
- Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown April 2013 - As part of the World Ski & Snowboard Festival held in Whistler, British Columbia, Burkard was granted the People’s Choice Award in the action sports photography competition.
- PMDA Visionary Photographer Award, 2016 - Burkard was presented with the Visionary Photographer Award by the Photoimaging Manufacturers and Distributors on January 5, 2016, in Las Vegas, NV. The award was presented to Chris, "In recognition of your vision and creativity in offering new and exciting ways to bring images to life, and for inspiring a new course for future photographers by demonstrating the rewards of capturing uncharted territories."
- Australian landscape photographer Josh Beames lists Burkard amongst his creative influences.
- The California Surf Project (2010) 8 ISBN 978-0811862820 - In 2009 Burkard wrote his first book The California Surf Project published by Chronicle Books, this book documents the six month surfing exploration of Burkard and his friend, professional surfer, Eric Soderquist, down the California Coastline in a 1976 Volkswagen bus. Starting from the Oregon border and heading south all the way to Tijuana, the pair recorded their chronicle on the search for a California of the past and the discovery of California’s coastline today, using the iconic Pacific Coast Highway as their guide.
- Come Hell or High Water: Plight of the Torpedo People (2012) ISBN 978-1938922084 - Burkard was named principal photographer documenting the debut film release directed by Patagonia Ambassador, Keith Malloy. This bodysurfing film and book documents "The Plight of the Torpedo People," a type of graceful water movement using the human body to carve in and around ocean waves. Burkard served as contributing cinematographer. The film has received several awards, including "Best Cinematography" in 2011 from the New York Surf Film Festival Published by Woodshed Films, in 2013, Burkard, along with Malloy and body surfer, Mark Cunningham toured cities on the east and west coasts of the United States promoting the book and film together.
- Russia: The Outpost Vol. 1 (2013) - A self-published collaboration with the director Ben Weiland, Russia: The Outpost Vol. 2 is a combination small-format photography book of Chris' images and short stories by both Ben and Chris, as well as a DVD documenting their trip to Russia with surfers Dane Gudauskas, Cyrus Sutton, Trevor Gordon and Keith Malloy.
- Distant Shores (2014) ISBN 978-1623260170 - Published by Ammo, Distant Shores is a compendium of Chris' work from Alaska, the Caribbean, Chile, Christmas Island, Iceland, India, Japan, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Mexico and Russia. Featuring an interview with Chris conducted by Steve Crist, the book is composed mostly of highlights from each location, taking advantage of the large format of the publication.
- The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth (2015) - In 2015 Burkard released his first original short story, the children’s book The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth. Illustrated by David McClellan and published by Dreamling Books, the book is an inspirational story that follows the young protagonist as he travels through the wilderness. Encompassing themes that are central to Chris’ work, such as exploration, observation, inspiration and the pursuit of joy, The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth has been well received, and quickly became Chris’ fastest-selling book to date.<
- High Tide (2015) ISBN 978-9089896544 -Published by the highly regarded fine-art book publisher, Mendo, High Tide is a collection of work from Chris’ most recent travels; from the Arctic Circle south to the Roaring Forties. Complete with stories by Michael Kew, Ben Weiland and Zander Morton, High Tide is the most comprehensive look into Chris' life as a traveling photographer that has been published to date.
- Russia: The Outpost Vol. 1 (2013)
Best Cinematography - Wavescape Surf Film Festival
- Faroes: The Outpost Vol. 2 (2015)
Best Film - MIMPI
- The Cradle of Storms (2014)
Best Film - Approaching Lines Festival Best Documentary Short - Florida Surf Film Festival
- Under an Arctic Sky (2017)