Moody mornings at Sandspit. Stormy sessions in the tropics. Late afternoons with sunshine and longboards. Welcome to the world as seen by Morgan Maassen. Maassen is the man behind Bogus Blog and the winner of this year’s $5,000 Flame Grant from the Follow the Light Foundation. We sat down with Massen to learn how he got involved with photography, where gets his inspiration from, and what’s to come after winning surfing photography’s most prestigious award. —Malcolm Johnson
Who is Morgan Maassen?
I’m a 19-year-old photographer, filmmaker and artist from Santa Barbara, California. I was raised in the ocean, and I’m in love with traveling.
What was it that inspired you to start taking photos and filming?
When I was 13, I picked up a video camera to make a short movie for a school project. It was called “The Stoke of Surfing” and it had footage that I shot of friends, some local pros, and some general surf and adventure around my neighborhood. From there, I started filming my friends and my travels, with Bogus being the name of my production company. About two years ago, I started shooting stills—leisurely at first, but it grew into a new passion. I kept doing it, and after some trips to Hawaii and Australia, a few magazines and companies started to contact me.
A lot of your images are really dramatic. In terms of style, what is it that you’re trying to accomplish?
I think what distinguishes my work is that it’s less of the perfect moment and more of a study of the functioning and existence of elements. My interests are in textures, shapes, and emotions, so my drive is to capture some of those things that I love and enjoy so much. I love being immersed in the environment I’m shooting—whether I’m swimming with a water-housing or just walking down a street. I try to photograph whatever’s captivating me—not what I think would make a pretty image. I think I see the world in a very peculiar way.
Going into the Follow the Light gala, did you think you had a shot at the grant?
When I was preparing my submission, I was trying to combine the most powerful images that also best reflected my style. I was optimistic about the portfolio I submitted, but then my confidence was quelled by several factors—I felt like my essay was weak, my experience limited, and my photos too obscure. Winning came as a huge surprise. At the time, I wasn’t even concerned with the awards—I was just plagued by nervousness about being on stage in front of an audience.
What effect will this award have on your career?
More than money, I think the grant has given me a huge boost of both confidence and recognition in the surfing world. There’s pressure in winning such a prestigious award in front of the industry, but I’m immensely passionate about what I do and I’ll forever give it my all, so I don’t think I’ll fail.
Part of the purpose of the Follow the Light Foundation is “to help finance the dreams of surf photographers.” Have you figured out what you want to do with the money?
One of the hurdles I’ve been stuck on has been committing to a professional telephoto lens. The grant has enabled me to purchase almost any lens, so now it’s just a matter of picking the right one.
What are your plans from here? It’s not long until the North Pacific picks up again.
Tomorrow I’m leaving for Tahiti to shoot for Billabong Girls. And after that I’m turning around and heading to Europe, so I won’t be spending the fall around my usual haunts. Winter will be relished in California and Hawaii, though—hopefully scoring.
To view more of Morgan Maassen’s work log on to Bogustard.blogspot.com and Morganmaassen.com.