SOLANA BEACH — Photographer Aaron Chang has spent most of his life living on the edge. He’s been chased by sharks, in a head-on collision with a kangaroo and caught in a fight to the death between two male lions.
In 1988 he was almost trampled by stampeding elephants in South Africa.
“I didn’t expect to come that close to them but it made a great photograph,” he said later.
Art lovers and thrill seekers can get up close and personal to the action at the new Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery he opened this summer with celebrated seascape artist Wade Koniakowsky.
In addition to showcasing his wildlife and travel prints, the gallery features Chang’s signature ocean and surfing photography.
“Aaron has spent so much time in the water that I think he has gills,” said Koniakowsky. “This passion for the ocean and stellar photography was an ideal fit when looking to partner with another artist to create the ultimate ocean art gallery.”
As senior photographer with Surfing magazine for 20 years, Chang traveled to more than 50 countries photographing some of the biggest names in the sport.
He is published in more than 100 magazines including National Geographic, Time and Sports Illustrated. His photography has also been featured by ESPN. In addition, Apple and Mercedes have licensed his images.
“I have a library of quite literally millions of photos all around the world,” he said.
Chang and Koniakowsky opened the gallery to exhibit their work and to create a venue for fundraising events that benefit ocean environmentalism and humanitarian and educational causes they are involved with. These include Surf Aid International, the Surfrider Foundation and Nourish the Children. Through a collaboration with Jedidiah apparel and World Vision they helped to create a safehouse program for human trafficking victims.
In the new year, Chang and Koniakowsky plan to use the gallery for workshops and seminars for artists.
“Everything we do we want to make a contribution in some form,” Chang said.
Chang grew up in Imperial Beach and began surfing at the age of 10.
“When I was 17 I went to Hawaii to pursue surfing in the big leagues,” he said. “I started shooting photographs.”
Chang’s early career involved travel 11 months out of the year. He slowed down after having two sons of his own, now 6 and 10, he is raising with his wife, Erika, in Encinitas.
He confesses to being a little uneasy at the prospect that his own offspring might want to grow up and become adventurers like Dad.
“I will be nervously supportive,” he said. “Most of all, I want them to be responsible and happy.”
The Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery is located at 415 S. Cedros Ave., Suite 110 in Solana Beach. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Chang’s prints are available custom wrapped on Firewire surfboards or in prints up to 12 feet. He and Koniakowsky also have the capacity at the gallery to prepare mockups so that clients can visualize their art in their own living and work spaces.
For more information, visit www.aaronchanggallery.com or call (858) 345-1880.