Morgan Maassen is an award-winning surf photographer and filmmaker from Santa Barbara, California. He has a unique take on surfing, portraying the human element in truly original compositions. His work is uplifting and artistic, exuding equal parts creative vision and technical skill.
We caught up with Morgan to discuss art, life, inspiration and his dream surf session.
Hey Morgan, how are you and what’s the focus in your life right now?
Hi! I am great, thank you – currently flying home from photo shoot in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Right now, I’m balancing my photography and filmmaking career, with owning an art gallery/cafe/retail store, and trying to travel for fun, while spending a decent amount of time at home with my dog.
We’re big fans of your work. What inspired you to get started along the creative path?
I grew up infatuated with the ocean and idea of travelling the world, while always having a blast making art in my free time. while my career as a painter never took off, I fell into graphic design and filmmaking in my teenage years and later realised it was the latter that would be the vessel to show me the world.
What were some challenges you faced along the way?
I found filmmaking first, around the age of 13, and photography around the age of 18. As I was already working as a graphic designer and doing freelance web design on the side, I was able to explore these newfound passions earnestly and uncoupled from business pursuits. When I decided to make them my full-time career to be able to grow my passions and travel more, building businesses around passions turned into a two-fold problem: maintaining the innocence of my passion while pleasing corporations, and committing to spending all the ancillary time it takes to spend to a business, around an “art form”. I live with nothing but pride and gratefulness for how everything has played out, but I won’t lie that there were a lot of sleepless nights of emails, conference calls across time zones, deadlines and long layovers in airports so far from home.
What are some of your favourite locations to shoot? What makes a perfect scene?
Teahupoo, Tahiti is truly the most beautiful place in the world. The water clarity, powerful waves, mountains, in a jungle paradise filled with whales and so far away from the hustle of Los Angeles. I also am really partial to the remote ruggedness of Western Australia, and the cultural perfection of Basque Country in France. I live for photographing things I was not expecting, which come from being free of expectations and far outside of my comfort zone… which usually comes from exploring new land, sea, and cultures.
A moment you’ll never forget from your surf photography/videography life so far…?
Without question, swimming with Humpback Whales in Tahiti. Years later, I still have no words to describe the magnitude the moment.
Do you have a favourite film?
I’ve always admired Werner Herzog’s “Lessons of Darkness”. It paints the Kuwaiti oil fires during the Gulf War as an extraterrestrial thing of beauty, which blows my mind conceptually. “Russian Ark” is a masterpiece: I watch it monthly for inspiration on art, culture, architecture, filmmaking, music, and everything in-between.
Who are some creative people that you admire – and why?
I really look up to my good friend Zio Ziegler, a San Francisco-based artist who instils so much of his wisdom and curiosity into his work. Additionally, Ashley Bickerton, a British ex-pat artist in Indonesia whose art intersects with his intelligence in the most fascinating ways.
If you could travel to your dream destination with only one piece of kit, where would you go and what would you take?
I would go to Antartica and take my Red Weapon & Nikon 14mm. I’m inseparable with it and would love to make a film on the ice and wildlife.
Do you have a favourite quote or mantra that you live by? Or, alternatively, any words of encouragement for those considering following a creative path?
“Do good, and drink tea”… and as for words of encouragement for anyone exploring the creative path, my best advice would be to form a plan to allow your creativity no limits, and to explore the world through its eyes… and everything else will fall into place.
How can people connect with you and find out more?