Sun, Surf & Sex: Ed Templeton’s Photos of Southern California Life

Hailing from Huntington Beach, CA, Ed Templeton first began skateboarding back in 1985 with his friend, actor Jason Lee. “The first thing that I ever saw was a kid skating down the street and he ollied up a curb; that was, you know, the thing that got me started. I thought that was the coolest thing ever, like, how could this guy just keep cruising down the street and not have to stop and pick up his board,” he told TransWorld SKATEboarding in 2012.

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By 1990, Templeton went pro with New Deal Skateboards before leaving in 1992 to start his own company. In 1994, he founded Toy Machine, and by 2013, he was sole owner—ensuring every element of the company reflects his personal vision and philosophy.

Toy Machine provided a platform for Templeton to develop his artistic and athletic ideas in a cohesive frame, enabling him to tour the world professionally. Inspired by Mark Gonzales, who did his own graphics, Templeton began to create works of photography, painting, and sculpture.

In the mid-90s, the D.I.Y. spirit had found new form in a group of young artists that fused skateboarding, graffiti, punk, and Hip Hop in their art. Curator Aaron Rose developed Beautiful Losers, an art exhibition, book, and eventually film that showcased the movement in the work of artists including Templeton, Gonzales, Shepard Fairey, Margaret Kilgallen, Barry McGee, Stephen ESPO Powers, Cheryl Dunn, and Ryan McGinley, among others.

For Templeton, art is a natural extension of his work, eventually becoming his primary focus as time and injuries allowed him to change course. Entirely self-taught, Templeton gives us his view of the world, showing us the Southern California life from the vantage point of an insider.

A selection of his photographs is now on view in Ed Templeton: Amalgamated Fragments at Danziger Gallery, New York, through July 27, 2017. The exhibition is the quintessential summer show, giving us sun, sex, skating, and surf. Templeton embraces the ethos of youth, the spirit of rebellion, the love of freedom, and the power of the individual.

In the hands of Ed Templeton, the camera has become a tool to record daily life as it occurs. There is something both of the moment and timeless about his work. The show features grouping of photographs that hold together to create a larger narrative, commingle and coalesce into a larger narrative of life in Orange County. There’s a sense of nostalgia and yet something more: a feeling of continuity between the present and the past as we gaze upon those who have come before. We feel the love and the joie de vivre, the intensely powerful sense of immediacy that best defines youth—as it reminds us that all good things are wild and free.

All photos: © Ed Templeton, courtesy of Danziger Gallery.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.