Considering Arenui Frapwell is still only in his early 20s, this well-connected lensman has been some places and seen some things. Certainly one of surf photography’s brightest young talents, his work has and will continue to build a loaded resume of published photos and commercial interest.
We reached out and after a little back and forth we finally connected with a few questions and Are responded with some very thoughtful answers.
What Youth: How about a few basics?
Are Frapwell: San Diego, CA
WY: How did you first get into photography?
AF: A lot of the reason I really started to get into photography was my bloodline. My Great-grandpa (Elvis Frapwell) used to do work for National Geographic back in his time, skipping a generation down to my uncle (Mark Frapwell) who photographs for a living, shooting weddings and portraiture, as well as working for those Shark tagging trips and Safari cruises on The Discovery Channel, back when they were around. But my main influence in photography has always been my father (David Frapwell) always telling me to “shoot for depth.” Back when he lived and worked in Yosemite Valley, he actually apprenticed with the man himself, Ansel Adams, working in his darkroom and venturing the valley and capturing those contrasting, pioneering images he created. His whole life he traveled the world especially in the 1980-1990s surfing and photographing waves in the outer islands of the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, you name it. All with a camera in one hand and a surfboard in the other. Before having me and my siblings he started his own film developing lab named “Foto Finish” in Del Mar (which he sold just in time before digital came out). His love for exploring and photography passed onto me at a young age as we take seasonal trips to such places, keeping the photos of special waves to ourselves to keep them preserved. Without him I would surely be nowhere near the person I am today, having love for photography and traveling. The ocean and surfing have always been a huge part of my life. Growing up in San Diego and surfing since a young age I have always had a connection with the ocean that gives me a sense of freedom and allows me a humbling form of “meditation” every time I get to be in the water. Growing up I quickly realized that the “professional” surfing career was not for me as I saw my peers getting really good at surfing, so I started borrowing my dad’s camera at around the age of 14 and documenting local surfers in SD. Within a few month I found my passion of traveling and shooting photos really start to grow and I began getting jobs to travel the world with my camera while getting paid so I pursued it.
WY: How about photographers? Any legends out there you are learning from?
AF: Another inspiration and mentor close to the likes of my dad is Todd Glaser. When Todd was growing up in La Jolla working at Mitch’s surf shop my Dad helped get him started in photography, giving him a few pointers and advice. Todd has always been someone that I have looked up to, not just as a photographer, but as a human and how well-spoken and knowledgeable he is. And what’s really cool is how Todd now is “paying back” the help my dad gave him years ago, to me. Whenever I need help with how much I should charge a client or shooting a certain subject, I know I can count on Todd to point me in the right direction and help me out to the best of his ability. Peter Taras is also another one of those guys that I have always looked up to in photography. His portraiture and the eye that he has when shooting is a line of work that has always caught my eye. Not to mention he gave me my first internship at Surfing mag when I was 15, having to bum rides from my parents to Oceanside for the day and getting snuck into the office because I was too young to apply for a legal Internship! I’ll never forget at the end of the day, I would have a list of questions and ideas that I would ask Pete about and he would give me his honest (sometimes harsh) opinions on them, which is what I loved and respected about him – not to mention staying an hour or two longer after hours so he could help me with my ideas and goals in photography.
WY: It looks like you travel a bit. What are some of your favorite locations?
AF: I would have to say one of my favorite places I have gotten the opportunity to travel to would be the Tuamotus in the South Pacific. Tahiti in general holds a really special place in my heart. It is a place I have been very lucky to experience at a young age and has taught me there is so much more beauty in this world than meets the eye. Being in the elements far away from other surfers and having the ability to connect with the locals is one of the most rewarding feelings that surfing and the ocean can give. I really enjoy going places that are hard to reach, away from the crowds which allows you to capture images and surf waves that not many people have to opportunity to get to experience. A couple other locations I really enjoyed visiting would have to be Norther Simelue in Indonesia, Bali, Portugal, Mainland Mexico, Norther Africa, Thailand, Fiji and Hawaii.
WY: Anywhere you haven’t been that’s high on your list to get to?
AF: I would really love to get out and explore some of the uncharted parts of the Marshall Islands and Papau New Guinea! Really anywhere you can get away from the crowds and experience places and cultures that not many people have had the chance to. Ireland too is somewhere high on my to do list.
WY: What other areas of interest do you have that you want explore with your photography?
AF: What makes me so passionate about photography is the people, places, and experiences that it has shown me in the 19 years that I have been on this planet. Without photography, I would be stuck neck deep in textbooks right now at some community college, stuck in the “rat race” trying to figure out what in life I want to be doing. Photography has shown me the world and all the amazing cultures and people it possesses, and it has shown me there is so much more to life than staying and working a 9-5 job in your hometown. My main passion in life is getting into new situations and experiencing things that I have never had the chance to, and having a camera by my side and honing my skills as a photographer has shown me that I can be whatever it is I want to be. Photography has shown me the greatest form of art by using a camera to experiment with light, and nearly “paint” an image just as a painters did so far back in time.
WY: Digital is super popular these days, do you experiment with film at all?
AF: As much as I love digital, I see the works of guys like Art Brewer and Todd Glaser, who take you back in time by shooting with FILM! Yes, film. In a day and age where everything is so digital, I love using cameras such as my Hasselblad 500CM and Nikons to really humble myself and take a step back in time, like the days before digital where you couldn’t just “shoot away” because you have a digital screen to correct your image. As much as I love “nailing” a photo, I love being able to shoot film because you never know what you are going to get, and you can try and try and try and still never get that photo you want until weeks, even months later, you get it, and that feeling to me is so much more gratifying and prestigious than getting that “keeper” while shooting digital.
WY: Are you pursuing a commercial career within surfing or are you looking to branch out to other things as well.
AF: Being 20 years old I am always searching for growth and looking to step out of my comfort zone. I really just want to have fun and enjoy life so whatever that might. So yes, I might not know exactly what I want to branch out into just yet but I will always be open to try new things!
WY: Any final thoughts?
AF: Thank you guys for having me! Really appreciate the support!!