Obituary: J. Stephen Hicks

Local photographer Stephen Hicks died Feb. 6. 

J. Stephen Hicks died unexpectedly Feb. 6 in Malibu. He was 58. 

Hicks was an acclaimed photographer, avid traveler, surfer and mountain biker, who called his beloved Malibu home for 19 years. 

Hicks is described by those who knew him as a loving husband and a committed father, whose happiest moments were spent with his family. He was known as someone with an open heart, generous spirit, ready laugh and engaging smile that touched many people. 

“Stephen was a force of life— his capacity for love and life was so huge,” Hicks’ family wrote. “His energy, spirit and soul touched and lifted all those around him. Adventurous, inquisitive, passionate, in tune with nature, kind, loving, empathetic, and most importantly, a true and lifelong friend to all those who came to know him. His genuine spirit, compassion, and boundless love will never be forgotten.” 

Born Aug. 24, 1954 in Denver, Colo., Hicks was the son of the late Joseph Wendall Hicks and Fletta June Stroud. He was a 1972 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and attended the University of Colorado. In the late 1970s, he moved to Santa Barbara, where he graduated from the Brooks Institute with a degree in photography. 

Hicks came most alive bobbing in the early morning surf in Malibu, Hanalei Bay and on the East Cape in Cabo San Lucas, mountain biking on the Malibu Backbone trails near his home and close by his photography studio and offices in Agoura Hills. His camera was always at his side capturing nature. 

His family described him as a model friend. 

“His character was strong, unwavering, and unimpeachable,” Hicks’ family wrote. “He never judged but he always loved.” 

Hicks possessed an ever-growing curiosity about the world that took him to far-off places. From Bhutan to Africa, South America to Asia, Europe to Mexico, he sought new cultures, new experiences and new canvases for his nature photography. 

Hicks is survived by his wife Lani, son Ryder, 18, and daughter Kailee, 15. 

A celebration of life will take place on Sat., Feb. 23, at the Sunset Restaurant, 6800 Westward Beach Rd., at 4 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Surfrider Foundation (, Heal the Bay ( or The John Wayne Cancer Foundation (