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Photographer Olivia Doan combines her love for the ocean with her talents in photography and captures surf lifestyle with a unique and timeless flair. The Leucadia, CA native’s extraordinary work and style were quickly noticed by brands, leading her to a successful career at a very young age.

In addition to surf photography, Olivia is passionate about music. Not only does she have the innate ability to create breathtaking imagery during live music shows, but she is a very talented singer-songwriter herself.

SSW chatted with Olivia about her background and aspirations and her two creative pursuits in music and photography, as she shared a playlist of her favorite tracks.

Olivia Doan

Photographer, Singer-songwriter

Leucadia, CA

SSW: What was it like growing up in such a beautiful beach community?

Olivia Doan: Growing up in leucadia was a dream. The culture of small beach towns is an amazing environment for a young creative like me, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

You started taking photos and found your passion/profession at such a young age. How did your photography journey begin? 

It’s quite funny actually, my dad had bought my mom a camera for her birthday, and itinstantly became an extension to my hand; I was eleven.

Why did you choose surf photography?

I think growing up surfing and in surf culture, it was a no brainer. I was always fascinated with the ocean, and loved being in the water. I wanted to capture something not everyone can be thankful enough to see everyday.

What gear do you use? What is the essential equipment you always take with you?

Right now I am using the Canon 7D Mark ii, and mainly use my 50mm 1.8, or my 18-135. People are always surprised to hear about my gear, because it’s not the best on the market. However, I strongly believe you can get amazing photographs on pretty much anything. As for my water-housing, I use an SPL, with a 24-200 port + zoom control.

What does it feel like to be out in the waves with a camera instead of a board?

It’s addicting. Everytime the surf is good, it’s always the dilemma to shoot or surf; shoot winning 90% of the time. On occasion, my friends can convince me to get my log out, but it always ends up with me talking their ears off complaining about how much I wish I had my camera..

Growing as an artist and person, you will always encounter challenges that require leaving your comfort zone to try things that scare you. What scares you? Is there anything new and exciting you’d like to try?

That’s a good question. I think i’m always growing and finding new goals/dreams tochase. I think something that is always in the back of my head is the fear of not succeeding.However, I have always wanted my dreams more than they scared me, and it seems to be working in my favor, (knock on wood).

You also do music photography. What music artists would you like to work with?

I do! I would love to work with John Mayer, he is on a whole other level when it comes to music. It would also be cool to work with Billie Eilish, a fellow youngster. I shot her for the Observatory in Santa Ana, and it was one of my favorite gigs to this day. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with other amazing artists such as Jack Johnson, Aerosmith, and The Vamps.

Any memories connected to the songs you chose to share with us in your playlist today?

Definitely. I can say that relate to all the songs I chose on a personal level. To me, music is an outlet for my feelings. When I listen to a song, I want to feel it. Whether it’s the lyrics or the riffs, I want to feel it.

Aside from being a photographer, you are a very talented singer-songwriter. We were so impressed with your voice and the amazing lyrics you write. How did you discover your passion for music? At what age did you write your very first song and what was it about?

Thank you! Music has always been in my life for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure I wrote my first song when I was around six or seven, it was absolute trash, but I like to think I’ve improved a bit since then. I had always just done music as a quiet hobby; I didn’t really share it with anyone but family. However, recently I have started to share my music, now that I have something to say, and something I am proud of sharing..

Thinking of yourself as a soul on Earth, what do you think your purpose is? And in what way do you think one person can make the world a better place?

I think my purpose is to create. I have so much inside of me that I want to share with the world. Whether it be photos or music, I was born to create. I think all of us are drawn to something, and I wish everyone would just follow their hearts. Society is becoming a repetitive cookie-cutter mold, and it’s destroying everything our souls crave. I strongly believe that if everyone was chasing what they wanted unapologetically, without the fear of acceptance,together the world would feel like home again.

If there were a perfect soundtrack for this year of your life, which song would it be?

“No Such Thing” By (of course) John Mayer. The song talks about how there’s no such thing as “the real world”, and how we all stress so hard about pointless things. As a firm believer in self-taught education, Some of my favorite lyrics are:

“So the good boys and girls take the so called right track
Faded white hats
Grabbing credits and
Maybe transfers
They read all the books but they can’t find the answers”

“They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side”

“ I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above”

Interview by Irina Liakh

Images and Videos courtesy of Olivia Doan

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