On September 6, 2017, StandardVision launched its latest site-specific public art video Tahiti, created by award winning photographer and filmmaker Morgan Maassen. The piece represents another new, innovative and original film in the SV Presents series; an art initiative showcasing the work of creative visual artists working within the community. We had the opportunity to talk to Morgan about inspiration, his technique, and life-or-death circumstances!
Where are you from?
My name is Morgan Maassen, I am 27 years old from Santa Barbara, California.
What was it like when you went into the ocean for the first time?
I have no clear recollection of the first time I was in the ocean, but my earliest memories are almost all of times spent at the beach or in the sea, where the majority of my childhood was spent. Everything from snorkeling to surfing, chasing birds on the beach and spending time with my Dad on his boat…
How long have you been working with film and photography?
I’ve been making films since my teenage years, when I first started experimenting with my family’s camcorder. All throughout high school, I made short films on my friends and I surfing, skateboarding and exploring California in our free time. Later on, around the age of 19, I started shooting photos and was immediately hooked.
What about the mediums are so inspiring?
I see beauty and art everywhere, so being able to document it is incredibly satiating. I consider all my photographs to be postcards, of moments and things I saw that I found alluring or inspiring. Filmmaking, to me, is a marriage of the beauty of motion and sound, telling stories and opening windows to new worlds.
What is it like to film underwater?
Indescribably challenging and gratifying. The cameras are fragile, heavily enclosed in aluminum waterhousings, there are sharks/reef/rip currents/waves, but it is always worth it. There is beauty in every droplet of water, and the thrill of being amongst it with a camera is second to none.
Have you ever had to deal with a shark (or had any almost life-threatening/altering experience in the water?)
Yes, amongst many other instances of large surf, reef, jellyfish, rip currents, boats, and so many other moments of potential peril.
You’re traveling all over the world – where are your top three favorite places that you’ve shot?
The Kimberley Mountains of Northwestern Australia, Biarritz in the south of France, and Tahiti.
What is it that you seek to communicate through your film and photographic works?
I love textures, minimalism, and most importantly, experiencing places and moments. Capturing these things are both greatly challenging and satisfying for me, and its an honor to share them with people.
Some of your images are so abstracted and dark, it feels almost like you’re lost in seeing a new, intimate portrait of the world. What about these moments sparks you to record them?
I don’t actively seek to create such a style of imagery, rather I think these are just the moments that stand out to me; the ones I chase with conviction and passion. I always laugh that its such a juxtaposition to the sunny and picturesque life I’ve enjoyed growing up in California.
Your works is set apart from the, pardon the pun, flood of photographers seeking to shoot surf culture and the natural world. Why do you think your work has the ability to stand out?
I’ve started to notice a lot of my photos and films aren’t centered around “hero” moments, but rather instances of unique lighting or compelling colors. to carve a career and body of work out of it has been a wild experience, but at the end of the day I am very proud of the work that I do.