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Matt Wessen, Dawn Print

Matt Wessen, Dawn Print


Matt Wessen for LA COUNTY

Framed and matted in white. Additional photos available upon request.

MATT WESSEN, born and raised at the mouth of Topanga Canyon, CA, is a surf purist: he lives and breathes the ocean.  Between living in a bus in Mexico and starting an artist commune in Greece, Wessen has been fortunate to see a lot of the world with a camera in hand, sharing his fondness for the sea. He honed his photography and filmmaking at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, seeking additional inspiration from LA Influencers Donald Day, Josh Farbro, Donnie Wilson, Alan Sarlo, Rick Massie, Skip Engblom, and from a younger generation comprised of Gabe Buche, Charlie Smith, Mikey Ronge, and Toro (Topanga Grom). Wessen creative directs on brand projects and via commission. Much of his photography can be found on Instagram @mattwessen. He’s grateful to be a surfer from LA.


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“LA County.”

Those two words form the crux of this show, conjuring up a deep and complex understanding of what it means to be a slider today in the cradle of modern surfing.

Los Angeles is an odd place (but we knew that). This applies to our favorite pastime as well. No longer center of the surf industry, it feels a million miles away from the “culture” produced right down the 405. For a megalopolis of such distinction, LA’s lack of pro surfers is eye opening. The boards Angelenos ride, the talent in the water — it’s a scattershot affair. Then there’s the perception that LA County and its environs are a wave-poor, wind-rich dumpster. Curator Matt Wessen’s aesthetic explores these notions and challenges the conventional wisdom.

Wessen’s riffs on this LA disconnect is observed in both the timelessness and otherworldliness of his photographic compositions. A subject angling for the high line at 1st Point Malibu could be Sarlo, Gamboa or even a French tourist. And it could just as easily be Dora. A reeling, freight-train right, hollow and unridden could be mistaken for Kirra if you look at it just right.

Wessen’s local knowledge, hometown pride and gonzo-eye for capturing a particular slice of coast — otherwise eyeballed to death — is notable and worthy of a deep dive.