Foto Feature: Myles McGuinness

19 04 2010

“A photograph is memory in the raw.”
—Carrie Latet

Myles McGuinness is a photographer who lives in Oceanside, California, but he grew up all over the United States—places like the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, and the beaches of Georgia, Texas, Florida and California. As he puts it, “I was raised on snow and saltwater.” He traveled a lot as a kid and developed a passion for exploration and photography. After graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a double major of photography and graphic design, he started his own brand communications company in 1998 called 9MYLES.

Through his work he aims to capture images that have “a profound aesthetic and an elegant simplicity that is drawn from the magic and spirit of the sea, the land and the people whose paths he has crossed along the way.”

What do you love about photography?
With my images I look to combine a certain energy: a feeling, with unique light at an equally interesting moment in time. At the heart, it all comes back to the ocean and what it is that draws us to it. It keeps me up at night. I cannot turn it off in my head.  I have learned the best way to express my passion for the ocean is through photography. Its feeling and essence is what I try to embody and capture within my images. Subtle but bold.  Simple yet deeply complex. Instantaneous but timeless.

How long have you been shooting surfing?
I’ve been shooting lineups for about 15 years…you know a couple quick snaps before paddling out. But I really started taking it seriously about 2 years ago when I purchased an SPL water housing before a trip to Indonesia. Things have taken off since then.

What publications do you contribute to?
In the surf industry I’ve had my images run in Surfer Magazine, The Surfer’s Journal, Water, with upcoming images running in NALU and The Surfer’s Path. I’ve been trying to branch out a bit with the unraveling of the surf industrys two largest pubs (Surfer & Surfing) both in Chapter 11. They are mainly running “staff shots.”

Was it an honor being a finalist in the Follow the Light competition?
It was a privilege to be part of it all and to make the finals says a lot. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that I’m little bummed I didn’t win. I truly believe the best guy won (Ray Collins). If only I lived in Oz. He’s a good bloke and a more deserving person couldn’t have won it. As they would say in Australia “good on ’em.” Larry is smiling down on us and his light continues to touch us all.

Who are your influences and favorite photographers?
Water, the ocean and the moon are the most dominant natural forces of my life. These three elements provide an abstract means of communication, through both surfing and photography. The ocean’s energy often transcends reality. It is this energy that I aim to capture. Artistically, Mies van der Rohe—less is more. Edward Hopper for his realism and simplicity. Edward Weston and Ansel Adams for their surreal landscapes. Art Brewer for his grit and portraits, as well as John S. Callahan for his untold discoveries. Timeless, unrelenting, honest, always exploring.

Do you think the surf industry takes advantage of photographers at times?
Man, this is a double edge sword. Of course the surf industry takes advantage. I recently had someone working for one of the largest companies in the industry with sales exceeding a billion dollars annually tell me they only pay $125 for a catalog cover and that included using it on their web site for up to a year. With a take or leave it attitude. The worst part was being told you will get great exposure and can sell prints to make up for it. Then they tried to convince me that this was industry standard, comparing their commercial catalog to editorial use.

Yes, it is true we all are trying to climb the surf industry ladder. But at what expense… it is a delicate balance between exposure and also getting paid for your labors. Giving away work for less than reasonable value not only hurts my bottom line but undermines all the other hard working photographers too. Being the cheapest gets you no where but poor. I also think the photographers need to share thoughts, billing practices, pricing and rates more openly. Maybe even form a union. The way it works right now everybody is undercutting and blaming the companies. But they’re helping undermine the photo industry by selling their images out the backdoor for less than industry standard. Or even worse, the industry is telling the photographers what they pay. Have a rate, stick to it and don’t be afraid to walk away.

For more of Myles’ images go to 9mPhoto.