Mickey Smith on the hollow waves of his local slab in Ireland, getting hammered on the nug, and why photography has always felt like a natural extension of the way he looks at the world.
– mickey smith
My name is Mickey Smith, I work with cameras and I’m a pirate from Penzance.
You say in your film, “I never set out to become anything in particular…” Was photography a calling, or something you backed into?
Photography has always felt like a natural extension of the way I look at the world. I love disappearing into the shadows and observing the world come and go through a lens. It was never a career path or career move, it just evolved and is still evolving for me.
Darkside of The Lens…why did you decide to make this film?
I made this film for my sister Cherry, who sadly passed away. She was my biggest supporter through thick and thin and she would always ask to hear about my own stories and motivations rather than wanting to read about the people I was off photographing. So I wrote it in her name, for Cherry, so her sons could see how much she inspired me to live this life and the opportunities I have had to the full.
Your narration on this film is poetic…how did this come about?
It just came naturally through notes and ramblings I guess, I can’t really remember to be honest, but I culled a whole load of weird shit out in the edit that for sure.
Regarding the soundtrack on your film, which came first: the narration or the music?
The narrative came first, the song was in my head and came naturally after, I recorded it in one night after a bottle of vodka with my friends Nat and Wilbot laughing at me.
Tell me about this line, “…I see life in angles and lines of perspective, a slight turn of the head, the blink of an eye, subtle glimpses of magic…”
It’s just the way my eyes and my brain works I guess. I’m always crickin my neck to find a way to see things that seems beautiful to me. I like to celebrate the little details all around us.
What it’s like to shoot in the water?
I love swimming amongst the waves, I love riding waves, they both feel fulfilling in different ways. Shooting heavy waves swimming around in the impact zone is really challenging mentally and physically. You have to be so switched on to walk away unscathed with some special photographs. You have to be able to deal with fear in both rationale and abstract ways to stay in position. It’s a completely unique method of photography. It’s hard to explain, but it’s fun and I love it.
How has where you surf defined your photography?
I like hollow waves, so I am always looking for those kind of waves to capture my imagination.
Capturing the perfect moment, how do you know where you need to be for that slice of time?
I think a lot of dedication, practice and a whole lot of failures combine into a shit load of good luck in the end, you just have to be able to hang in there through the rough times blowing it to really feel like you’ve achieved anything at all. Then like anything it’s full circle straight back to square one, it’s a beautiful thing.
Your best photographs, do they come from perfect planning or serendipity?
Serendipity is a really good word to describe it, I believe you have to work hard to earn some though.
Most challenging shoot you’ve ever been involved with?
Any session where you have to suck it up to get out there and be ready to take a really scary wave on the head and have everything taken out of your control. That sickly helpless feeling of getting caught out never changes for me.
If you could shoot any surfing locale in the world, where would that be and why?
Just my local slab in Ireland, thick solid swell with crazy back light and just the brothers out to share it with.
Biggest misconception about what you do?
That it’s well paid.
What has photography, and shooting in the water taught you about yourself?
Humility and appreciation.
Being dragged under water can be overwhelming and frightening. How do you deal with that?
I guess you just get used to it after a while and eventually start to enjoy it a little.
Can your equipment ever really be completely dry?
I use Aquatech water housings and my gear is always dry thank the stars.
What do you like to do when you’re not in the water?
Hang out with my girlfriend and daughter.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully just keep on evolving happily man.