Local surfer uses photography to help hospital patients cope

SAN DIEGO -- World-renowned photographer Aaron Chang has found a way to use his breathtaking photos to help patients in hospitals find comfort and healing.

Chang grew up in Imperial Beach, where he spent most of his childhood days surfing.

"The sensation of riding a wave and tapping into that energy was life altering and it became the entire focus of my life," said Chang.

At 17-years-old, Chang moved to Hawaii to pursue surfing but quickly found a new passion in surf photography. He spent more than 25 years working for Surfing Magazine as a senior photographer, capturing images all across the globe.

"But of all assignments, the harder they are, I think the more excited I get," Chang said. "So last month I presented over 300 images to the art committee and I think this may be my best commission ever."

That commission will directly benefit Sharp Chula Vista's new hospital set to open next year. Given the healing nature of art, Chang was tasked with capturing the beauty of San Diego's South Bay.

"There have been a lot of studies done recently about how art, particularly photography, and specifically nature, and more specifically pictures of water can really take somebody out of a state of chaos and fear and transport them into a quiet happy place," said Chang.

Chang's work is featured in several medical facilities throughout the county. While his art provides patients with an escape, Chang says it's the testimonials that encourage him to continue to help others.

"From patients who were in extreme trauma and stress that use the art to kind of pull themselves psychologically out of that situation and some of them attribute that healing directly to the encounter with the art," Chang said. "That's a very humbling experience for an artist."

Chang owns two art galleries in San Diego where all of his photography is on display.