Documenting the ‘dark side of the lens’ may have exposed Mickey Smith’s work to a wide audience – but for years he has been deeply committed to the planet’s heaviest water.
Portrait by Anna-Lise Dunn
He was a punk kid from Newlyn in Cornwall’s far west. After spending his early years getting inside and out of the beach breaks, shoredumps and harbour walls of that English county he travelled the planet making decisions on the throw of a dice.
On the journey he became intimate with the textures, colours and sensations of heavy water from Margaret River to County Mayo. Somewhere along the way he learnt to evoke what it’s like to exist in intense natural situations more powerfully, more evocatively, than anyone else.
But try to get Mickey Smith to talk about himself and he clams up. You try to make an icon out of him and he’ll look at you funny and laugh. And it might be incongruous, in a way, to focus on a guy who takes pictures and creates films as one of the definers of the culture of the outdoors.
But just look at the work he produces. There’s a technical brilliance to the images he manages to capture that belies something special. Mickey has more than any other contemporary waterman been able to access the most intensely beautiful, fleeting moments. These temporal increments are where the elemental wonders of the planet discharge – transforming the distant power of wind across water into three dimensions that define lives closer to shore.
Mickey’s work evokes something eternal in an everlasting moment – communicating things that remain for the most part locked inside deeply committed surfers’ minds. It is in his ability to air and share these moments that Mickey’s relevance lies.