Mark Leary has made a name for himself capturing beautiful images centred around the minutiae of life, finding interesting angles in ordinary scenes and bringing the subtle hues and tones of the overlooked to life. His new book, Salt + Wax, combines his two great passions, surfing and photography. Like all great things, it has been a long time in the making, but the project is finally ready to launch at this year’s London Surf / Film Festival, which is hosting a gallery show of his work. We caught up with Mark to find out more about his passion for cameras and waveriding, and to get the low down on his freshly printed tome. Mark will be launching his book at LS/FF in the Approaching Lines Room at 4pm Sunday. Tickets are free – email : : [email protected]
LS/FF – How did you get into surfing and why?
You know, I’m not even sure. I was very young, maybe seven or something like that and it was a family holiday. I think somewhere like the Isle of Wight. Do they even have surf there?
LS/FF -What is it about the surfing lifestyle that has kept you engaged ever since?
It’s just the ocean and the fresh air and the just sitting out back staring at the horizon and then looking back over my shoulder as the sets go crashing through. I surf mainly little stubby keel fins and quads but am always drawn back to beautiful single fin pintails.
LS/FF – When did you first pick up a camera and did you always want to pursue a career in photography?
My grandfather always had a camera but I bought my first one when I was sixteen [with paper-round money]. Maths was my thing and then I went to the states for three years on and off working with kids who had cancer. That was pretty amazing but mentally draining so didn’t feel I could give it my all so I followed my friends to London and just decided that I wanted to give photography a real go.
LS/FF – Have you always mixed these two passions?
I had never taken a shot of surfers or anything to do with surfing but then one day cottoned on to planning personal shoots where there were waves. That way I could surf all day and then shoot some stuff for my agent to keep them happy as well. Unfortunately that took over my thinking and I didn’t shoot anything but surf related images for about four years, hah, hah.
LS/FF – You have a very distinctive way of looking at the surfing aesthetic – have you always been drawn to capturing surfing’s more interesting angles?
I have always just shot everyday, almost mundane things that most people don’t take a second glance at. So I wasn’t going to change that for the surfing shots. I just don’t really care for ‘false’ shots of how surfers are perceived and meant to look.
LS/FF – What have you drawn inspiration from over the years?
I don’t really look at many things. I just get on with my stuff but films stay in my brain. The films Submarine and The Royal Tenenbaums are not only really funny films but beautifully shot. Also skateboards, surfboards, snowboards, bikes, cars, shoes, an old fan I have, just so much stuff that I think looks amazing… My weird OCD thing is plug sockets. I just love the way they look in parts of Europe and Asia. Hahhah, that sounds so sad.
LS/FF – How did Salt + Wax come about?
I went to China in 2006 for a week and shot a series of work which Richard Bull [founder of Yacht Associates] saw and asked if we could turn it into a book. I’d been visiting Richard for about eight years previously with new work and I was so stoked when he said this. He was also a keen surfer so it was just the right thing to do that we went and then did a book on surfing. I couldn’t have got to where we are without him. He has been the driving force and I thank him so much for having the passion in this project.
LS/FF – How long has the project taken to put together?
Hah, hah… well it’s now probably coming up to four and a half years. Don’t even now where that time has gone quite frankly.
LS/FF – Do you have a favourite image in the book?
I think it’s one of two. Either the bubble wrapped board in the corner of the room, as that was the shot that started off the whole project, or the shot of Neil Erskine sat in the doorway of his van. That was the first time I met Neil and we have been friends ever since I think. He is just so positive to be around and sees the best in everything. He also is a joy to watch in the ocean. He certainly makes the most of a wave.
Check out Mark Leary’s work at the Riverside Gallery from the to the 24th September to the 14th October. His book ‘Salt and Wax’ will be launched at the London Surf / Film Festival, and a number of limited edition signed copies will be available.