Meet Karl Mackie. He’s not just a surfer, he’s not just an artist, he’s not just a craftsman, he’s not just a photographer. He’s all these things. He’s the kind of person that not just knows how to turn his passions into an art that captures his own style, but also shares that art with the world, be it through displaying his sea-scape film photography at exhibitions, to crafting and curating a multi-artist handplane series, to simply enjoying a great break with great friends.
As you can see, there was no question that we had to get in touch with Karl for a Q&A about his journey and inspiration behind these passions, as well as to get a bit of insight from him about life, hard work, and learning a trade. Without further ado… an interview Karl Mackie.
If you could describe in just one single sentence what it is you love about each of your main passions, what would it be?
From the minute a new roll of film goes in until the last shot, capturing a moment or a place in time that would have been otherwise forgotten is pure magic.
I love shaping off the wall boards in the home workshop, creating a functional surfboard from a blank and seeing the project through to the end is very rewarding.
Graphic design has been part of my life for a very long time, and I still love it with a passion. I think once you think like a designer, you always think like a designer.
Once you start surfing, and you get hooked..thats it! A life controlled by tide times, swell charts and winds. I can’t imagine not having surfing in my life, not having that connection with the sea. It’s just the way it is.
As an established photographer whose made his passion his business, what words of advice and do’s/dont’s would you give to aspiring photographers?
I think for anyone starting out in photography right now it’s at it’s hardest. The way camera’s have evolved so quickly and have become so affordable, the old saying of ‘the best camera is the one thats with you‘ has never been more true. I would suggest looking at what you want to achieve in photography, what you want to photograph and work really really hard at developing a style of your own, collaborate with fellow photographers by putting on your own exhibitions, use the web (particularly flickr) and just keep snapping!
Tell us about your creative process from the moment you see a shot you want to take to the final version of the image. What’s going through your mind? What kind of stories do you look to tell through the photograph?
I’ll wait for a good day to shoot, for as long as it takes before going out, sometimes with a mixture of camera’s. I convince myself I need the same shot on a holga 120 film as I do on my regular camera which makes it all the more fun. I usually have an idea of what I want to capture, having dreamt it or visualised it and I try and get that slightly left field shot. Sometimes I’ll shoot 2/3 rolls of film and only progress 6-8 images further from over 90 shots.
From here I send the rolls of film off to the lab, and once I get the negs back it’s hours and hours of post production time in front of the computer. I try and make sure I add the chosen images to my website around this time as well.
Let’s talk gear and tools. What’s your favorite camera and lens and why? What post processing techniques and finishes are your favorite?
My favourite camera without a doubt is my Canon AV-1 loaded with out of date lomo film and using a 1.8 50mm FD lens. I have taken nearly all of my recent work with this camera and I would be lost without it. I love to shoot with the old film and the 35mm lomography film always throws up weird colours, particularly if cross – processed. Sometimes I’ll do this, but most of the time I shoot straight lomo.
How would you describe your photography style?
Old School, Grainy, Dark, Colorful, Vivid, Exciting.
Your work has been showcased at several exhibitions such as the Relentless Boardmasters 2011 and the British Surf Film Festival 2011. What was the process of getting your work into / accepted to be in these exhibitions?
There’s two way’s of getting yourself into higher profile exhibitions: You can either ask or you’ll be asked. Either way, before this happens work really hard, and then work even harder. If your going to put yourself out there and exhibit as a solo artist, for example in the above events, then make sure you have enough work to showcase. The way photography is exhibited is crucial. Think about how you are going to present yourself and your body of work to people and go for it!
What’s your philosophy on the meaning of life?
I have always thought the meaning of life represents something or communicates something. For me, that’s to never take a day for granted and to take this life we have and run with it, do as much as one can, live the dream, achieve your goals, pass it on to your children and keep smiling.
How did you get involved in shaping surfboards?
About 10 years ago I met a guy called Alex, who became my neighbour and good buddy. At the time he was working for a well known surf factory and had the chance to use the shaping bay to make a board. I said I wanted to get involved and together we made a few boards over winter. From there I was hooked and never looked back.
Let’s say someone else wanted to try their hand at shaping boards, what’s your own story behind getting started from finding the space, to getting the tools, to getting it right?
I owned a lot of surfboards before shaping my own. I also had quite a few boards custom made. I don’t think I would have been able to understand the shaping room ethics had I not been through the above. Shaping is an art. It’s pure art, done with the very basic of tools, eyes and judgement, and done properly will give you no better feeling when you paddle out on your first hand shaped board – no kidding. The best advice would be to spend some time with a shaper, watch and learn as he goes about making the board, then try yourself. If this is not an option then use the internet. There are so many shapers giving away their advice you should have a really good start. (Handplane Design: The Fishtail by Miss Hazard)
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would that message be?
This is a tough one… this is by no means a message to everyone, but for those fortunate enough to have a talent and a will to achieve their dream, whatever that may be in whatever walk of life that may be, do your best and go for it. You’ll meet lots of people, broaden your whole outlook and come out the other end a lot more wiser than you began.
Who and/or what has inspired your creative pursuits today and throughout your life?
In the past it was a driven mentality to keep pushing the boundaries. Now I’m older & wiser and I am finding huge amounts of inspiration in my young family, and not to push boundaries but to pursue whole heartedly the creativity I love.
Tell us about the most (or one of the most if you have a few!) memorable surf session of your life?
There have been a lot over the years, but the ones that stick out are…. I used to surf Putsborough in North Devon all the time with my brother and my mates. It’s such a good wave there. We would surf anytime, any tide, and afterwards draw a huge circle in the sand and have one-on-one fights between us until the last man standing in the circle was the winner. Then off to the thatch pub for a pint. Such fond memories of those days. Another memory is a surf trip to Portugal and surfing the beach break at Beliche. I had seen it working in pictures and it really goes off, hollow and shallow. Body boarders love it! On this particular day it was breaking in the middle of the beach and A framing. A perfect wave, I sat facing it for what seemed like ages before paddling out and pulled into what looks like on a picture that was taken a double overhead wave – a full cover up. I’ll never forget it. Lastly and more closer to home, one February surfing Penhale corner with my buddy Tim, it was freezing cold, raining, howling offshore but throwing up barrel after barrel after barrel and we would/could not come in. Even when the arms went like noodles we kept going …still have that down as one of my best surfs in Cornwall.
What are some of your BIG plans for the not too distant future?
I am currently preparing new photography work and handplane art for a forthcoming exhibition I have at Seed Surf Company in Cornwall launching this April 7th. The exhibition is being put on and curated by In-House Studios. I’m also being filmed and documented for a new surf movie showcasing creativity in the surf community. There’s some exciting design projects coming up this year and I’m shaping a number of boards for people over the next next few months. I’ve also just collaborated with a local surf shop called Watershed in Newquay who will sell my hand planes and framed photography through the store.
Where can we view your work and even better – purchase some of it?!
Prints, framed prints, canvas’s can be bought through my shop at www.etsy.com/shop/
You can view my latest work though my website at www.karlmackie.com
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/
Say hello at www.facebook.com/