If you don’t know Morgan Maassen but you somehow follow me to see this, then you really need to ask yourself some serious questions :)
However, on the very slim chance you don’t, here you go…
I first discovered Morgan Maassen years back when I was searching for the photographer who took the incredible slow shutter wave image that was the wallpaper on my new Apple Macbook. I had barely taken many ocean images back then and definitely nothing using slow shutter. There was something captivating about that image that I used to look at each day and promise myself I would learn how to do it, to at least some degree.
At just 28 years old, Morgan’s client list reads like every aspiring photographers vision board. Including Apple, Red Bull, Corona, Nike, Quiksilver, Patagonia & Facebook just to name very few.
His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Marie Claire, The Daily Mail, Surfer Magazine and the list goes on… and on.
But one thing I’m learning about successful people through these interviews is that talent with a camera is only the beginning.
Morgan’s success comes from the warm, welcoming person he is and the fact that clients can trust his reliability to deliver and be a great person to be around at the same time.
The fact that, with a constant schedule and over 260K Instagram followers to reply to, he made time to answer questions for me shows the calibre of person he is.
Beyond his personal photography and filmmaking he has set up ‘Breakfast Culture Club’ - a coffee spot / art gallery / retail store / creative hub in Santa Barbara, as a space to connect creatives from all around the world.
Browsing through his Instagram account is like being transported into an, artistic, surfing dream world.
As I said, I’m sure most of you will be very familiar with him already, but for those who are not… you are very welcome
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, a small surf town just north of Los Angeles, California.
Was photography always the plan or what first made you pick up a camera?
Not in the slightest! While in high school I made short surf, skate, and adventure films with a camcorder for fun, but I was quickly falling into a career of graphic and web design, which I was working towards specializing in. It wasn’t until I had saved up some money to travel in lieu of college that I decided to take a photo camera with me, and I very quickly fell in love.
Scrolling through your still images, they each look as much like they could be a frame grab from a movie as a single photograph with the emotion and story conveyed. Do you consciously approach stills photography with a cinematic storytelling mindset?
My passion of cameras and image-making comes from telling stories through film, so I think this is a sub-conscious by product of that. I do not intentionally set out to create images in any way except for as documentation of what I am seeing, but its often easy to see my other passions leach into it.
You seem to really like Australia. How did that begin and what has been the attraction?
Australia is one of the first places I visited as a teen, and it absolutely took my breath away. I’ve now visited the country in so many capacities: as a backpacker, a surfer, a photographer, filmmaker… and no matter what corner of Australia I find myself in, or who I am with, it is divine. The land and sea offer truly some of the best slices of this planet.
Do you plan many shots or is it more about continuously noticing moments as they occur?
My life now is about finding balance between work (shooting commercials and creating work for clients in general) and creating media that challenges me, while stemming from only pure and organic intentions. Having an “artistic” passion as a career is always confusing, but I am always creating… so I just let the cards fall as they do and try to just take photos and video everyday.
What did the process look like of simply having an interest, talent and passion for something to then turning it into becoming your very successful career and source of income?
For me, it happened rather unintentionally… as I already had a full-time job doing graphic/web design, and was tinkering with photography and making films in my free time. I ran a blog that had some traction, so when I started exploring photography and posting it there, corporate and editorial clients started reaching out to me. When it got to the point that I was being asked to travel on their behalf and be compensated accordingly, I was able to make the transition into being a professional photographer.
How much of your shooting now is work related and do you have much of a chance to just explore and shoot with no agenda?
I try to divide my shooting into three pillars of equal activity - shooting for brands that sustain my business/lifestyle, shooting projects that challenge me to grow, network, or attract new clients and shooting aimlessly to explore my creativity and passion.
What is your favourite wave to shoot at that you can name?
Teahupoo, Tahiti… without question. The most incredible mountains, crystal clear water, a perfect wave with a vibrant reef and charming culture. It doesn’t get any better!
Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet, that you would love to shoot?
I would love to shoot surfing in the snow in Iceland or northern Japan. Additionally, I would love to do a fine art travel series in Antartica.
Any other parting advice for creatives wanting to turn their passion into a career?
One bit of advice I feel rings true for every aspiring creative is to create something, anything… everyday! Rain or shine, there is always something to be made or documented. Having a passion as a career is the ultimate blessing, but the flipside is that there are no hours to clock in or out – one must put in as much work as they want to receive a payout.
Dive into Morgan’s world further here