After working as a surf photographer in Orange County for five years, Kenny Hurtado headed north to San Francisco, where he fell in love with the wild landscapes and local community spirit.

After working as a surf photographer in Orange County for five years, Kenny Hurtado headed north to San Francisco, where he fell in love with the wild landscapes and local community spirit.

As at ease with the ocean as those who ride its waves, Kenny Hurtado worked as a surf photographer after graduating high school, spending five years documenting the wide and the wild of the US Pacific coast. At 24, though, with feet itchy for new people and experiences, he moved to San Francisco to attend art school, where his relationship to his medium developed and grew.

It was the landscape here, in Northern California, that most captured Hurtado’s attention. “I first started making trips up North in the early 2000s,” he says. “I was completely taken aback by the landscape and the people, and now take trips there any time I can.”

It’s certainly a far cry from where he grew up in Orange County, California, which Kenny names as “the least stimulating place to be a photographer… all strip malls and predictable neighbourhoods.”

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“I’m usually attracted to a place that is situated in or near natural environments and open space,” the photographer explains. “It’s important to me to be able to get lost in a place and be out on my own. I like to be able to photograph a landscape and then drive back into town and make portraits.”

Hurtado’s photography fuses arresting portraits with far-reaching, unruly landscapes. “I’m most excited and interested by the subtle ways people inform a landscape and how the landscape may inform the people,” he says. “I rely heavily on my intuition and let my curiosity lead the way.”

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“I never wanted to focus solely on landscapes or portraits. Sometimes I decide to approach a new project with the intention to only make landscapes, but then I always come across some portrait and end up tying them in. After time and editing, it all comes clear. You develop themes and begin to connect the dots.”

Hurtado’s body of work in Northern California is as expansive as the landscapes he captures. While he initially intended for his work to be published in a book, his focus now is purely on indulging his spontaneous nature and relentless desire to experience new people and new places. “I’m trying hard to get better at finding the new in familiar places,” he adds. “But I still prefer the process of searching out a particular place and seeing what it has to offer and how I react to the new surroundings.”

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See more of Kenny Hurtado’s work on his official website, or follow him on Instagram.

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