Morning Light

19 Dec 2011 0 Share

A project by Murray Fraser and David Maurice Smith

“There was one session I missed this year. It was the best day of the year, and I was in Cairns shooting another job.”
Six months after the event, the disappointment in Murray Fraser’s voice is still palpable as the Manly-based photographer recalls the day he broke his morning ritual. “Knowing it was six-to-eight foot at North Steyne was distracting to the point of depression. I had an early flight so I got up pre-dawn and got a few shots in the dark then I jumped on my shuttle to the airport.”

As the man behind the lens of Sprout Daily, a daily e-newsletter distributing surf photography from Manly Beach to subscribers around the globe, Murray has been shooting Manly's morning life since moving from the Gold Coast in 2007. Missing the day-of-the-year hit close to home.

“It’s almost a habit – like an addiction – to find out what’s going on down there… If I miss a good sunrise or I miss a really good session, it disturbs me. On the other side, knowing that I was in the right spot at the right time – I get a lot of satisfaction for that.”

Color imagery by Murray Fraser
Musical track by Nick Saxon, nicksaxon.com
B&W images/sound/production by David Maurice Smith


Murray's daily routine continues back at the office, emailing images to subscribers scattered around the city and the world. It’s not a new formula. Sydney-siders’ proven affinity with their beaches has buoyed the careers of several prominent photographers. A few kilometers away on the other side of the Heads, Eugene Tan’s images of Bondi have brought him international recognition. For Murray, bringing people a daily glimpse of their stretch of coast is a big part of the job satisfaction.

“There are a lot of people who’ve had something to do with Manly in the past – who have either lived or visited here,” he says.

“I sent a print off to Dubai recently. It was of two people walking in the rain on the beachfront. The customer had just been through a 45-degree summer. All she wanted to imagine was walking through the rain on the beachfront in Winter.”

After four years of pre-dawn patrols, his hard-drive is brimming with 60,000 images covering the full spectrum of Manly beach life: from strollers soaked in the amniotic glow of a 2009 dust storm to ominous, steel-grey swells exploding on the Bombie in mid-winter gloom.

“Each photograph can mean different things to different people, but the important thing [to me] is that the moment is captured.”



ABOVE: A selection of Murray's images. Click at right to view in full-screen..


With a firmly-established online following, Murray’s been working to get his prints on walls. One group exhibition presented the opportunity to work with Canadian-born photographer David Maurice Smith.

“I met Murray through some mutual photographer friends. They told me that there was this guy who did a daily surf blog,” recalls David who, having recently moved from Whistler, appreciated the introduction to the surf community. “Murray has a real following in Manly. I call him ‘the Mayor’. You go down to the beach with him and he knows every one – old ladies, men… everyone comes up and says ‘hello’.”

The pair’s first collaboration saw them build a temporary ‘Pop-Up Gallery’ in a Manly shop about to undergo renovation, with a third photographer, Pete Longworth. “They basically gave us the keys and said, ‘Do whatever you want with it for the weekend’,” says Murray.

Off the back of that project David made several cameo appearances as a Sprout Daily photographer, before turning his camera on Murray over the course of a several days this November to create the ‘Morning Light’ video.

“Dave did a couple of workshops and a few projects in New York,” says Murray. “When he came back he just wanted to do stuff… I do something that is very routine, and we thought that might make an interesting story.”

However, coming off a recent documentary project on New York Hip Hop culture, the working hours came as a bit of a shock for David.  “I was a vampire,” he says with a laugh. “I went to bed at eight in the morning and slept as long as I could. Murray is a real ‘Morning Person’. And there’s a rhythm to what the does. It’s early, and you’re out working with Mother Nature.”

“Having done a few Sprout shoots, I had some idea of the regime, but honestly, it’s hard to get images every day. Murray shoots that same stretch of beach every day and he’s got all these viewers that are waiting to see his photos. He goes out and works hard to get something that people are going to be interested in every day. He’s frothing and comes home with the goods.”


You can see more of Murray Fraser’s work and subscribe to his daily newsletter at Sproutdaily.com...

You can see more of David Maurice Smith’s documentary work on his website, davidmauricesmith.com...

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