At the young age of just 21, Kenny Hurtado was quickly on his way to becoming a household name, as he already laid claim as staff photographer for Surfing Magazine. Three years in the biz and boredom and redundancy had taken its toll, so 24-year-old Hurtado packed his bags and relocated to SF to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. Three years at SFAI, and with less than twenty dollars in his bank account and no way to pay tuition, another move was in order and this young photographer found himself working at a super market in Memphis, Tennessee. With no real home, he spent his nights on the “couch surfing tour” or sleeping in his car. Fed up with that, and heartsick from a relationship gone south, he pointed his car West and vowed to never look back. Less than a month ago he was stationed in Oakland, washing dishes every night at a local bar and scraping to make ends meet. A call from Corban Campbell and Kenny once again found himself behind the lens shooting photos of Danny Hess for the newfound com any VISSLA. So impressed by his camera work, the boys offered him a fulltime gig, and it looks like mister Hurtado is back in Southern California, ba k in the industry and back on his feet. He’s got an uncanny ability to make his subject feel at ease with an eye that any photographer would kill for. Fresh out of his car, we had a few minutes to catch up with Kenny and pick his brain to see what he thinks his future holds.
So Kenny, now that you’re back here in Southern California, what would you say you’ve missed the most?
Well I didn’t miss much this go around. I was only in Oakland for one month. I’ve been in Los Angeles for the past two years. Things got out of whack for me a few months back, so I packed up and bailed to Oakland. I was expecting to live there permanently until Corban at Vissla called me up and gave me an assignment, which ended up changing my direction.
Glad it worked out the way it did. Looking back on the past decade or so, what was the reason you packed it all up and left, what most would consider, a really good career path behind?
My setup back then was ideal, especially at that age. At the time I burnt out on photographing surfers, I felt that I couldn’t make it look interesting anymore. That’s when I knew I had to get out and try something new. That is how I ended up at Art School in SF. I’ve never stopped creating and being a photographer, my focus and subject matter just changed. It’s wild to come full circle at age 30. I never thought I’d be back at it, but I’m so stoked to be involved and still have a place. I’m sure you’ve seen some crazy shit, living out of your car and what not.
What stands out as the craziest or scariest situation you’ve ever been in?
Ha, nothing too wild has happened. Except maybe developing back problems and knee problems from sleeping in the back seat of my shitty car.
Now that you’re back at it and putting in serious work behind the lens again, what’s your new role at Vissla and what are your future aspirations?
Still trying to figure this out. I don’t officially start until January. As of now I think I’ll be in charge of everything lifestyle for Vissla, which is right where I want to be, and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make this work for me in the industry. But I want to focus on surf as well. Vissla has a rad, unique crew of guys: Brendon Gibbons, Lucas Dirske, Keoni Jones and Derrick Disney. All surf very differently, so I’m curious to see what I get out of these guys once we start globetrotting.