Brian Stephen, a.k.a. "HANK FOTO" has worked in the surf industry for over 30 years. It's enebled him to not only to travel the world in some of the most remote places, but also known for it's secrecy. The lifestyle of a photographer in the Extreme Sports World is only accepted by those who dare to not only ride big waves, but lead a lifestyle that is shared by only the ones who are truly dedicated to risking their lives, bodies and reputation for being the best. There are no colleges, tuition fees or schools that get you ready for travel, failure and extreme competition that only a few survive. But, the biggest obstacle to get into this elite pack is "TRUST." That is what HANK was able to acquire while growing up in southern California. Then came surfing magazine where he was introduced to the world of Larry " FLAME" Moore. Larry took Hank to the next level of surfing by fathering him into shooting some of the best athletes, places and people that would make Hank what he is today! One of, if not the best photographer in the last 30 years to capture athletes from Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Andy Irons, Bruce Irons, Brock Little and the list goes on into another planet.
My name is Michael Gruszka and met Hank at Surfing Magazine when I was just moving from Boston, MA as a graphic designer looking for a lifestyle of exploring how the west coast lived. I had no idea of what was going to happen since when I moved there when I was twenty and did not no a soul, but had to take that chance. After some hic-ups with a couple of short lived jobs outside of graphics, I finally got interviewed by Barry Berg at Surfing Magazine. That's when I met Hank amongst other still friends of mine today that run the Extreme Sports World today. I stayed on board with Surfing Magazine for 3 1/2 years and it launched me not only design wise, but kept the door opening for other beautiful career opportunities. Next was Gotcha Sportswear where I ot to work with legendary pro surfer and clothing mogul that changed how the lifestyle of being a surfer was changed forever! Especially since Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Sean Penn) gave mainstream America as classic stoners with no future but burning weed and just making it out of high school. That's Hollywood! The job I was given was being Art Director for Gotcha Sportswear International and MCD ( More Core Division ). Both labels were so outside the box because of the way Michael Tomson approached his advertising, team and most of all the perception of what everyone thought surfers were. He made it a full blown out of the box, free thinking, charging without ever looking back lifestyle and freedomtoo be the best. No rules! Just be yourself. Never walk someone else's path and keep creating.
After 7 1/2 years it was time to move on and explore new ideas and companies. Through the success of my last 2 jobs I was introduced to McElroy Communications and became the Art Director of Vans Shoes! This should prove to be even a bigger challenge than the last, but definitely a huge success in T.V., Tradeshow Booths, Billboards and the list goes on. If you are an Art Director and love to think freely and have a client that pushes you to do just that... then that's what I was given the opportunity to do as well as grow with one of the hippest, rock solid companies that started the skate shoe industry. They had all the sports and great riders that offered the Extreme Sports World! I could go on and on and you're probably sick of me and my talking about myself!
Our relationship professionally continued from Surfing Magazine, Gotcha/MCD and Vans Shoes. This would lead us up into the best project I think this lifestyle should not only see, but read. Hank asked me to come to Hawaii ( which was a no brainer ) to come see his collection of his journey through 30+ years of photography and produce a collector's book that would educate today's generation of what it was like from the inside out of athletes, travel and photograph's.
This is going to get good. Real good. I know the photos, stories, athletes and places since I've spent so much time with Hank and this lifestyle for the last 25 years!
To be continued!