Huntington Beach local Michael Latham began with a quest to decorate the walls of his home affordably. He never dreamed that photography would grow into a hobby and now a side business. "Seriously what inspired me was being able to put pictures up in my house," he tells us during a recent visit to his home. "That's what I wanted to do."
Born in Huntington Beach, Latham moved to Anaheim in elementary school. He came to HB "as much as humanly possible," taking the bus and staying all day. When he missed the bus, he walked home. Images, especially surfing and ocean-related iconography, fascinated him. He cut photos out of magazines and newspapers and covered the walls of his bedroom. It would be years before he translated his admiration of those same types of images to creating them himself.
At age 35, Latham has been in business going on three years. He regrets not discovering photography sooner, but believes that there is a right time for everything and maybe it wouldn't have worked out had he begun earlier. For Latham and his growing group of fans, it was certainly worth the wait.
"When I realized I wanted to shoot pictures, I had some buddies that were going to go surf Trestles," explains Latham. "It was double overhead, it was firing." A surfer himself, he chose to shoot the waves and his friends riding them instead. He took his wife's point-and-shoot camera with him for that inaugural session, and the rest was history. He saved up to buy a better point-and-shoot with a 32x zoom lens and later purchased a Canon 5D. This is the camera he still uses today.
Latham's equipment is humble—just like him. "All my other lenses were either given to me, or I paid very little for," he says. One of his lenses is 20 years old and was made for a film camera. He once had to superglue it back together in the middle of a shooting session. The local photog's biggest investments were his Mac and Photoshop for editing his work. "There's no way to shortcut that!" he says. He edits all of his work from a small desk in the living room of the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife and newborn son.
A self-taught photographer, Latham read books and watched YouTube videos to learn terminology and other hints. His photog friend also assisted him a great deal with learning the functions of the more advanced camera, as well as digital photo editing techniques. Latham says he can spend up to two hours editing a single photo.
Fast-forward to today where Latham is steadily building his local fan base. His colorful work has captured much attention due to his unique perspective as a surfer and photographer. He is also known for doing crazy and at times dangerous things to get the shot that photogs with pricier equipment would avoid. He has featured his matted prints for sale at the HB Downtown Art Walk and continuously has his work featured in Ghetto Juice Magazine, Solspot and Surfline. He also recently joined our Made In HB Marketplace as a featured maker.
In November 2013, he won the Judges' Choice award for Artist of the Year at the Art Walk. The last-minute award was announced that evening. Latham was just about to pack up and leave when the judges said his name. He recalled thinking, "I think they just said someone's name that sounds like mine. That couldn't be me." He continues to be in disbelief that his hobby has taken such a successful turn. "Seriously, I'm blown away," he says. "I just like shooting pictures, wanted some to hang in the house, and it turns out people like my stuff. [I'm] so overwhelmed, so stoked."
What's next for Latham? He hopes to sell more prints in the coming year so that he can upgrade some of his equipment. He claims he isn't really aiming to give up his day job for photography, but if the opportunity arose, he would grab it "in a second." We know his hometown will provide him plenty of future inspiration. "I love the beach, love the ocean, there's just so much between sunsets and the pier and sunrises and surfing," says Latham, as if in a daydream. "There’s so much you can shoot, and it's such a cool backdrop."