By D.J. Palladino
MASTER OF HAUNTED PANORAMAS, icy light and tropical ease, photographer Macduff Everton spent most of his creative life waiting for sunrise angles while perched on canyon walls far away from the town that helped make him. Although born in Oregon, the Evertons moved here in the early 1960s, when Macduff’s father Clyde became pastor at Trinity Episcopal.
The son, schooled at La Cumbre and Santa Barbara High, loved surfing foremost, but lit out for Europe and around the world before he turned 18. During his sojourns, an accidental tourist gift of a camera helped propel him from the Orient to his much-beloved Yucatan peninsula, where Everton got a visual education—later, he was formally schooled at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies.
He’s seemingly shot everything by now and always memorably, from waterside palapas in Belize to Hong Kong dusk, published in magazines from Audubon to Westways.With his artist side activated, he has shown in galleries from Santa Barbara Museum of Art to MoMA New York, among many others.
But it was in the water that Everton learned to see. “I would sometimes go way back in the wave just to see what the world looked like from there,” he explains, “Surfing was way better than therapy. No matter how agitated I got, it was always such a cleansing primal experience.”
Yet it took Everton years to get around to the changing light of our fair town. “When you’re living here,” he says, “there are so many demands on you. You might think, oh look at that great light, but you’re late for an appointment. What do you do?”
Something fairly magnificent, it turned out; The Book of Santa Barbara, which Everton and his spouse, artist Mary Heebner, created with text by Pico Iyer, is the best yet to capture both the romantic spirit as well as the aching solemnity of elements that hem us in and set us off.
“The funny thing about this city is that it’s 50 percent water,” says bushy-browed Everton, tracing the blue outlines on a city map from Leadbetter Beach to the airport. Which mostly means our world is always changing. “Winter storms will strip the sands away, and we’re left with the vertebrae of the earth exposed. Then comes spring, when there are always waves and the sands come back. From El Capitan to Rincon, these places are fabulous in spring.”