Tom Carey - Volcom and Stab Magazine Photographer

When and where did you learn to surf?
I started surfing when I was about 8 years old I think with my brother in my hometown of Seal Beach. The waves were pretty bad there and I didn’t get to surf as much as I’d like. I played a lot of other sports as well that took up a lot of my time.

What do you love about surfing?
I’d say everything. I owe everything to surfing. My friends, family, my job and my freedom are all because of surfing.

Where is your favourite place in the world that your job has taken you?
I really love Mexico but it’s hard to say one place is better than the next. It’s more about the experience and the memories I make. You can go to the best place on earth but if it’s with the wrong crew it doesn’t matter. It’s all about making things click and getting the surfers to crawl out of their comfort zones.

How did you first get into photography?
I borrowed a friends camera when I was about 12 years old and started shooting my friends who were amazing surfers at the time. I then started with the basics, my mom’s SLR manual focus Minolta setup. I learned about film the hard way and scratched up enough money when I was about 17 and bought some better gear and a water housing. That’s when I got really hooked and knew I needed some professional equipment. I took out a big loan and absolutely crushed it in my first year. It was a lot easier back then though to get your foot in the door.

Do you have a favourite shot that you have taken or a favourite surfer to shoot?
That’s a tough question. Certain surfers are better at different locations. I’m fortunate enough to be on board with Volcom and shoot their talented team. I dig shooting Nate Tyler, Mitch Coleborn, Dusty Payne, Alex Gray, Andrew Doheny, Ozzie Wright and Zeke Lau. That’s pretty much our team right there.

What sort of education have you had?
Not much education with photography. I went to Long Beach State University and dropped out with one semester to go. I was studying print journalism and creative writing at the time. I don’t have any regrets though. I have a solid job with a bit of security so I’m stoked.

What was your very first job?
I dragged softball fields at a local park when I was young. It was mental. I didn’t have to answer to anyone and I made pretty much 50 bucks an hour. I saved so much money up that way. Nothing is worse than having a crappy boss to me.

What is your current job and what does it entail?
My current jobs are staff photographer at Volcom and the staff photographer at Stab Magazine. At Volcom I’m responsible for making sure all of our ad requirements are fulfilled and I’m partially in charge of putting trips together for the movie we are making. That keeps me pretty busy. I’m in the office a few days a week when I’m home taking care of business that’s for sure. At Stab I have to fill some pages with my work, help out gathering images and basically helping out anyway I can. That job is very new to me but exciting.

What do you like most about your job?
I really love the freedom I have with my career. My bosses are amazing and trust me to do whatever I want. If someone asks me to do something or go somewhere I’m usually free to say yes. When I stay at home too long I go stir crazy and need to satisfy that itch to travel.

Who has had the biggest influence in your career?
That’s a tough one. I am really grateful to everyone at Volcom who have given me the world. I owe a lot to them. It’s hard to be successful at surf photography now a days and I know how fortunate I am. Also Pete Taras at Surfing Mag helped me get to where I am today. He’s so good at his job and he really helps you grow as a photographer. I had a great run over there at the magazine and most of it is due to his knowledge.

If you could photograph anybody or anything in the world who/what would it be?
I’d want to go back in time and basically be Bob Gruen, the rock photographer from New York. His work is amazing and the guy is so damn lucky to shoot bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, The Clash and a grip of other legends. He totally emersed himself into the scene and his images really speak to me. I dig that type of music and I still get a lot of joy shooting music, probably a bit more than shooting surfing.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to make a career out of surf photography?
Shoot in the water. Don’t even bother with a land setup. Shoot fisheye. Also I’d try to intern for someone or a magazine. Separate yourself others, learn the angles try new things and find one good surfer to cling on to.

Where can we find you online? 



Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on October 16, 2013
Categories: Interviews