"Salt + Wax" - Mark Leary's Surfy Photography Book
This is "Salt + Wax". This is the lovely simple cover that surrounds Mark Leary's book of surf photographs, it's the second book of his photographs that he's produced and the first that focuses on surfing.
It's a book to pore over. Love. Look at and think about surfing. And life...
There are various beauties to be found in Marks photography, but the main two things that harrass my mind as I'm looking at them are their leaky-ness and tussle with mundanity. Mark uses traditional photographic equipment rather than digital photography and the joy that his techniques infuse into the images is all about light and character. His images are leaky. There always seems to be a bit of 'extra light' leaking in here and there. Largely in the highlight/quarter-tone areas but the depth of shadow keeps a proper contrast: the photographs don't just look underexposed. This 'bleeding in' of light and colour is what gives the images their life - it's like life leaking in. (I look forward to the time that I finally get to see some of his photographs 'in the flesh' rather than in CMYK ink.) Photography is all about light and absorbtion and Mark pulls the physical nature of the medium tangibly into his images.
The photographs also toy with a wonderful mundanity. His composition deliberately engages the viewer (in this book being a surfer is what it's all about) with familiarity: glancing at the board in the car, the wetsuit hanging up to dry, the board in the corner. These are photographs that we wouldn't consider photograph worthy, necessarily. I mean it's not exactly Kelly Slater in a 10ft perfect barrel. And that is, well it's not really worth saying, but clearly the point. The composition, colour, light, the atmosphere of each photograph gives them a compelling content. Something that reaches out and freezes in a slice of time; the life we often forget to cherish in our repetitive, aspirational, speedy world.
Many of the photographs look cool, pared down, a bit bare. I love this idea that they are as much about taking away as they are about putting in.
The book makes me look forward to surfing again. But not just surfing: putting a sandy bar of wax in the car, remembering my old towel...