If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping. If there’s no future in it, at least it’s a present worth remembering. – Mickey Smith, Dark Side of the Lens
At the southeastern tip of England, in the county of Cornwall, lies the town of Penzance. Head south out of town for three miles and you’ll come to the tiny hamlet of Paul. Host to wet, cold winters, and best known to the larger world for its various associations with piratical figures, it doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would have fostered a dedicated surfer, much less one who would one day become a highly respected, well-traveled photographer of the sport.
Mickey Smith is a mild-mannered fellow with a thick Cornish accent and a weakness for bad weather. In 2010, in the wake of his sister’s death, Smith released a short film that upended the hoary clichés of a genre fixated on the pursuit of endless summer. “Dark Side of the Lens” was filmed on the frozen western coast of Ireland in the middle of winter, and features towering cliffs, iron skies, and swirling black waters. As the images stream past Smith delivers a sort of mystical, stream-of-consciousness monologue on his life in the water. The film somehow manages to convey a sacred feeling without coming off as overwrought, an achievement largely attributable to the honesty of Smith’s narration, and the pure unbridled beauty and power of the land- and waterscapes he documents. Filled with wheeling gulls and thundering currents, they are places at once ominous and exuberant.Read More