Behind the Lights – Morgan Maassen
An interview with the multifaceted Californian artist capable of making the aquatic universe unique
“I just try to go to places where I can be outside and experience nature, adventure. I want to meet people, see animals, and spend time in the elements. I don’t thrive in cities or being in the same place for too long. I let my camera do the talking; i want to share the beauty and curiosities I see along the way”
Morgan Maassen’s video-photographic productions speak their own idiom. They are a highly communicative language, deeply aesthetic, immediately comprehensible.
Exotic and human beauty mingle in works that give off a sea breeze, that search for the ecstasy of the moment, that portray the mixture of natural setting and bodily presence.
“When I first got into photography, I was busy with school, work, and very passionate about art and films. I spent most of my time studying those things, so when I’d ride my bike to work or go skateboarding with friends, I started just taking my photo camera along with me to grab a few photos each time. Naturally, my progress was very slow, but I spent the majority of my time learning by shooting what I wanted, and experimenting by trial and error, which helped get me and my style to a place I liked”
A style founded on three pillars: the care of the composition, the minimalist influence and the need to faithfully argue the storytelling. Theoretical bases that are expressed in front of marvelous scenarios, liquid palms and dancing waves, bodied abysses and transparent skies.
“I don’t try to practice this so much as its what I notice in my work. Compositions are super important, I shoot primes and discard photographs that need to be cropped: I love respecting the perspective of the photographer and original photograph. I gravitate towards minimal compositions. I only really share photos that tell a story. Everyone has a different take on photography, this is just how I do it and what I think I value the most”
The art of surfing, of aquatic equilibrium, is certainly the main theme of Maassen’s multiform work. The subject is a special surf that turns into a tangible theatrical work, into an intimate scenic gesture; it is an atypical surf in which the natural stage is anything but accessory and often becomes the first protagonist.
The ocean for Maassen’s lens is movement and stasis, it is an animated mirror that divides his visions, that stimulates them. The aquatic mosaic becomes a picture that can be painted and studied from every angle, from every height, from every technological tool.
“Aerial views and underwater photos, normal and Super8 videos: they are all just tools and devices! I try to pick whichever is best to capture the moment. I love trying out new cameras and films, to see if I should consider them for any other reason, but often times I do most of my shooting on my Red camera: I love motion so much… Underwater textures are my absolute favorite subjects. The way light, bubbles, and hydrology work together… Sometimes it’s so surreal to watch that I forget I have to film”
From continent to continent, from beach to beach, from adventure to adventure. Morgan Maassen’s life is a Grand Tour of beauty, a perpetual journey driven by sea breezes, a pilgrimage in search of wonder.
A search that is not undermined or conditioned by its clients, who are often prestigious multinationals and giants of international publishing.
“Tahiti is always first to my mind, because the mountains and sea are so powerful and pristine. The waves in Tahiti are incredibly powerful and the water is the clearest I’ve ever experienced. Greenland and Northern Australia are close runner-ups. I have a unique style that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve been very fortunate to form partnerships with companies as well as deliver them work they were able to use. This often comes through adventure and lifestyle, which I don’t mind shooting for brands. I’m always adamant, my style and work methodology are respected, which sometimes turns down projects, but it allows me to shoot the way that brings me most joy”
In the near future Maassen will still find personal happiness again. He’ll be able to do so thanks to a few video projects that have already been organized. The Californian artist is planning a documentary dedicated to free-diving in frozen lakes, a short film about the aquatic photographer Ben Thouard and a new ocean film. We can only wait.
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