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Charles Simmons

Chase Simmons

Photography instructor, Professional Photojournalist, and Skateboarder. Living in paradise. Honolulu, HI.

Aloha! Photography is really about stories. Here is mine.

I am a 3rd generation photographer. My grandfather and mother introduced me to their love for photography when I was just a baby. My mother predicted I would be a professional photographer when I broke her prized 35mm Minolta camera trying to play with it when I was 3 years old. She promptly replaced hers and got me my own plastic toy camera. At 15 my mom gave me her hand-me-down Nikon D70 DSLR and my life changed forever.

I got my first real taste of action sports photography when as a teenager. I had been a photographer/filmer for my friends growing up skating but in high school I played Semi-Professional paintball and my mom bought her own mask and jersey and was able to gain access to all of the fields that we played on as our on-field photographer. Seeing my mom running around getting shot and making some insane images sparked a fire in me to get as close as I could to action with my camera. Another habit that has stuck to this day.

In 2010 I moved to Honolulu, Hawaii with my future wife and began shooting the University of Hawaii Men’s Rainbow Warrior basketball team for multiple media outlets. That turned into covering football, volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball and other sporting events. I became the main baseball photographer for Hawaii Media Source and for 4 years I covered each home game of the season, some 50+ games a year for baseball alone.

After 6 years of carrying a full time press credential for UH athletics, I could feel myself burning out. I started to feel that my love of photography was dwindling. It scared me. A lot. So when the mens basketball schedule for the 2016-17 season was announced and my North Carolina Tar Heels were slated to play UH in my backyard at the Stan Sheriff Center, I decided that would be my last game. Maybe not forever, but at least at this point in my life. I needed to take a break and regroup as a photographer. What better way to go out than covering the team that I live and die with as a fan myself?

In November 2016 that dream came true. I got to cover UNC topping UH 83-68. I had already informed the head of HMS of my plans. So I shot the game, praying it would never end, enjoying every minute of it that I could. Then I submitted my pictures and walked away from being a credentialed sports photographer. It only became more special when that UNC team went on to capture our 7th NCAA National Title at the end of the season. What a way to go out indeed.

A year or so went by and I felt something missing in my life. I had no desire to pick up my camera for the first time. A lifelong baseball player, I found that betraying me too. I kept getting hurt playing softball, something that was always my most proficient activity. Being a defensive specialist and shortstop, I couldn’t manage to stay healthy. Taking great pride in my ability to make difficult plays in the field, I wasn’t happy not being able to give 100% every play. That too was coming to an end. I was gaining a lot of weight for the first time. I could feel depression settling in. I wasn’t even 30 yet. What was wrong with me?

I turned to another constant in my life. I quit skating when I was 14 for paintball. But even when I wasn’t skating, I still bought Transworld Skate Magazines throughout my life just for the photos. I had always worshipped skate photographers like Spike Jonze, J. Grant Britain, Atiba Jefferson, Bryce Kanights, Patrick O’Dell and Michael Burnett. These dudes knew how to capture such a dynamic “sport” in just the right way at just the right time. Even during my days of covering traditional sports, I dreamed of shooting skating and would often buy skate magazines for inspiration and ideas of how to make my work stand out from the rest. I started watching Thrasher’s King of the Road and O’Dell’s “Epicly Later’d” on Viceland TV and dreaming of skating again. I remember having an epiphany one night when I realized what skating had always brought to my life. Hyperfocus. Skating allows you to tune everything out in life and focus all of your attention in the moment. Just like photography. It was like the universe giving me the answer to all of my troubles. I needed to get back on a board.

I set up a new board, started skating again, dropped 60 lbs, and in 2018 my worlds collided. Thrasher Magazine announced that they would be holding an event on the beach in Waikiki. They were going to rebuild the famous “Y-Ramp” that was featured in 1988 at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. I arranged with Hawaii Media Source to try and obtain a credential to shoot. No response. I went down to the beach and when I showed up, nobody knew who to contact to see about getting me in but a security guard came through with an unlimited access wrist band he had been holding for someone who couldn’t make it. The universe was tossing me the rope again. 5 minutes later I found myself surrounded by some of the most legendary skaters on the planet with full access to the venue and my camera in my hand. 13 year old me was giggling inside like a school girl.

As a photojournalist, your career is cataloged in your brain as events. At the end of each assignment you walk away with an opinion on how you shot. That day, after it all wrapped up and I was walking back to the car with one of my broken boards freshly signed by Andrew Reynolds, I looked at my wife and said “I think that’s the best set of images I’ve ever taken in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever top that catalog.” I knew, at that moment, that if I never shot a college or pro sporting event again, that would be ok. I was going to devote my life to documenting the skateboarding community in Hawaii from here out.

Since then I’ve been on a journey to photograph the gnarliest and best skaters that I can. I’ve had images go viral on Instagram in the skate community, had a chance to shoot with professional skaters for sponsor ad campaigns, become close friends with legendary skaters that I aspired to be like as a kid, and recently I found out that I will have 2 images published in the upcoming issue of Confusion International Skateboard Magazine. One as a full page. That one will also be B&W which has always been my favorite style of photography. Dreams just keep coming true. I now shoot for Confusion and am often featured on their Instagram as a contributing photographer. When I have that magazine in my hand, I’ll add another publication to my portfolio and check off a box that’s been on my list since I was 8 years old. Become a print published skate photographer.

There is a saying in skateboarding, “Skating saves lives”. Without a doubt skating and photography have saved mine. These worlds colliding brought me out of depression and anxiety that I was unsure I could come out of on my own. I’m currently working on a film about the positive effects of skateboarding on mental health.

My goal as an instructor is to take my students inside my world. A world that I don’t believe is real myself sometimes. I want you all to see what I do. Whether it’s covering local skaters or world class professional surfers. Living in Hawaii provides me with a chance to photograph some absolutely amazing things. Come see what I mean. I think of photography as an art, but more a life skill. It allows you to document history, to catalog memories for yourself and others to enjoy throughout life. It also provides you with a way of seeing the world that others are not privy to. It’s like living in an alternate universe. I see in images. I see light different than others. I anticipate things happening when others don’t. These are all gifts that my camera has given me. I want to help you learn how to harness this amazing resource for yourself and see the world through a photographers lens. Pun fully intended.

Mahalo for reading my story! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via Instagram @chasethemoment808 or email charles.simmons426@gmail.com. Hope to see you all soon in class!

My Experience

Photojournalist
Freelance, Confusion Skateboard Magazine, Hawaii Sports Media, Abstract Magazine, Cal Sport Media, Island Sport Media
Political Photojournalist
Kathryn Xian for Congress 2015, Sherry Campagna for Congress 2019
Wedding and Portrait Photographer/Owner
Chasing The Moment Photography
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