Martin Tracey: Young, Free, Alright!
The Rad and Creative Youth of Australian Surfing
Presented by Arnette
Interview by Dan Caban
Today Martin Tracey entered his school gates to start his last year of high school, and when that 9am bell rang he joined in a collected sigh across the nation – the summer holidays of warm water and independent freedom had come to an end. It’s not all bad though; school isn’t that bad is it? Okay it’s not the greatest, but according to Martin his school decks out a pretty dialled in art and photography capacity, so all is not ruined. He may not have been too stoked on school, but we were stoked to get the chance to interview him run this feature to get you stoked too! Stoke!
CW: So, Martin, how did you initially start getting into photography?
MT: I guess my early days of photography were a little different to the norm as it wasn't my family or friends that got me hooked on it. I found it as I was just starting high school and walked past a flyer for a darkroom photography co-curricular club. I didn't even know what a darkroom was nor had I ever picked up a camera, but it seemed ideal! I was into art at the time and I guess that's where my interest came from. I introduced myself to the teacher whose name was on the flyer and soon after had a hell of an experience with my first introduction to the darkroom doubling as my introduction to photography.
And it’s just progressed from there?
Well it's definitely been slow! I don't know if the progress has been too drastic either! But I do think having such a good teacher at school that was always around to show me the ropes and give honest criticism has definitely helped me gain some knowledge and experience.
How old were you at that stage?
I think I must have been about 12 or 13 at that time so I was definitely too young to notice how much of an impact those early days would have on my future but still totally loving it.
Do you remember your first camera?
Before I owned my first camera I'd been lucky enough to be able to borrow 35mm cameras from school until I'd saved up enough to buy a Canon EOS 1000d. I was at the age when I thought if something was old-fashioned it was outdated and uncool. So I thought shooting with film and developing in a darkroom was totally useless. Now I look back on those first digital photos and can't understand what I was thinking dropping the standard from self-processing prints to only shooting with an entry level SLR. I was so hooked on digital at the time though. Wouldn't make that mistake again that's for sure!
What equipment are you currently shooting with?
I still own a DSLR but can hardly find the opportunity to use it compared with my little family of film cameras. Specifically, I carry a Canon 60d, a Canon FTb QL, a couple of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras and the love of my life; my trusty Zeiss Ikon medium format. I think it's the sturdiness and reliability that makes me so drawn to shooting with the fully manual film cameras.
So you use film equipment a lot, is that a distinct area of photography you would like to explore?
At the moment I'm probably shooting film about 90% of the time. I find it much more rewarding either developing shots myself or picking up a film from the lab than plugging a memory card into a laptop to see hundreds of photos of similar things. And I find all the technology on SLRs way too confusing! I definitely think my future is in film photography, I can't really see myself changing my perspective on digital anytime soon. I'm hoping to add a large format slide camera to the collection one day and get real funky with light leaks and developing techniques. I think that's what my future holds.
You have a few speed blur shots which I love. Do any of your shots stick out in your mind as your favourites?
I think speed blur is the biggest indicator of when I shoot digitally these days. I love a good speed blur but don't want to risk wasting film! But any favourites? Probably not. I don't have an album or a folder of all my shots, they're either scattered on my hard drive or in amongst the mess of my bedroom, so it's pretty hard to say.
I dig your ability to capture both the raw nature and beauty of the ocean; do you feel you are more inspired to capture the ocean itself than high performance surfing?
I definitely feel that it is a much more reliable and relatable subject in the sense that I can do my own thing and focus on what I want to do and see rather than adjusting to the surfer and what they're trying to do. But in saying that, I think when you're working with whoever is surfing and you both have a similar idea of the kinda shots you want to produce then that works really well too. I just much prefer to only have Mother Nature to worry about.
What other aspects of photography are you into? Portraits, lifestyles etc.
I've been really trying to get into portraiture as of late. I think that'll be where I'm headed in the future. It seems much more of a universal field as there are the characters that create these photos everywhere in the world. I feel it's a much more personal and emotional side of photography. I do think landscape is a nice form too but it doesn't seem to excite me like portraits or surf shots do.
Which photographers influence you?
I think the biggest influences on my work would be guys like Bill Henson, Edward S Curtis and Lee Jeffries in the portraiture sense but with surf related stuff I think Trent Mitchell, Dane Peterson and Ryan Heywood are my favourites. I like that they shoot a little bit differently yet still have so much authenticity, I think that's what I'm trying to achieve.
Tell us about school. Not just photography, but just being a grom at high school.
I can never seem to enjoy school. I think it's just the idea of it that I don’t like, but god I can't wait to get out. There's a pretty fun group of fellas I'm there with though and they all make it a pretty funny place and much more bearable. I really dig the art scene at my school though; I think I'll miss that. It's more of a sporting orientated school so it's surprising how kitted out the art department and all the co-curriculas are but they're really dialled in.
And what’s the plan afterwards; do you want to complete a University course or the likes?
My only plan at the moment is to leave Sydney, find a quiet town with friendly people and try have as little obligation as possible for as long as possible. By then I'm hoping I'll have found the clearness of mind to figure out who it is I want to be for the remainder of my time. Then I'll try come back to reality to achieve that. Can't wait!
Young, Free, Alright! is a fortnightly editorial series presented by Coastalwatch and Arnette showcasing and profiling young and up-and-coming photographers, filmmakers, bloggers, artists, musicians, shapers, surfers or whatevers that we've been digging. The rad and creative groms of Australian surfing. Alright!
To follow the developing talent of year 12 student Martin Tracey and his penchant for the monochromatic bookmark his tumblr.
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