Dark Side of the Lens

Dark Side of the Lens presents the art and inner voice of Irish surf photographer Mickey Smith. The six minute film lets you experience Smith’s aesthetics translated into beautiful practice. (“I wanna see waveriding documented the way I see it in my head, and the way I feel it in the sea.”) But then it rather poetically cracks open the personal philosophy of the artist:

I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience for adventure and for passion… The raw brutal cold coastlands for the right waveriders to challenge – this is where my heart beats hardest…

Most folk don’t even know who we are, and what we do or how we do it, let alone what they pay us for it. I never want to take this for granted so I try to keep motivation simple, real, and positive… If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living where I’m scraping…. If there’s no future in it, this is a present worth remembering.

The aesthetic choices. The personal decisions. It’s all what’s happening behind the camera, the place no audience sees, the “dark side of the lens.” You can find the full transcript of Smith’s commentary after the jump…

A final note: Dark Side of the Lens was born out of a project called “Short Stories.” Established by Relentless Energy Drink, the UK-based project challenged filmmakers to create their own mini opus, to explore and celebrate “no half measures” in film. Find other shorts here.



I see life in angles, in lines of perspective – the slow turn of a head, the blink of an eye, subtle glimpses of magic – other folk might pass by. Cameras help me translate, interpret and understand what I see. It’s a simple act that keeps me grinnin’. I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience for adventure and for passion. They still all mean something to me, same as most anyone with dreams. My heart bleeds celtic blood and I magnetize the familiar frontiers. The raw brutal cold coastlands for the right waveriders to challenge – this is where my heart beats hardest.

I try to pay tribute to that magic through photographs. Weathering the endless staunch for rare glimpses of magic each winter is both a blessing and a curse I relish. I wanna see waveriding documented the way I see it in my head, and the way I feel it in the sea. This is a strange set of skills to begin to acquire. This is only achievable through time spent riding waves. All sorts of waves on all sorts of crafts. There is more time spent learning out on the water, floating in the sea amongst lumps and swells, you always learn something. It’s been a lifelong wise old classroom teacher of sorts and hopefully, it always will be. Buried beneath headlands, shaping the coast, mind-blowing images of empty waves burn away at me.

Solid ocean swells powering through deep cold water, heavy waves weighs in wait, coaxed from comfortable routine, ignite the imagination, conveys some of the viny spark, whisper possibilities, conjure the situations I thrive amongst and love to document.

We all take knocks in the process – broken backs, drownings, near-drownings, hypothermia, dislocations, fractures, frostbite, head wounds, stitches, concussions, broke my arm – and that’s just the last couple of years, still look forward to getting amongst it each winter though.

Cold creeping into your core, driving you mad, day after day, mumbling to yourself while you hold position and wait for the next set to come. The dark side of the lens – An artform that to itself and us, silent workhorses of the surfing wake. There’s no sugary cliché. Most folk don’t even know who we are, and what we do or how we do it, let alone what they pay us for it. I never want to take this for granted so I try to keep motivation simple, real, and positive.

If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living where I’m scraping.

If there’s no future in it, this is a present worth remembering.

For fires of happiness and waves of gratitude. For everything that brought us to that point on earth at that moment in time, to do something worth remembering with a photograph, or a scar -I feel genuinely lucky and hand on heart say I love doing what I do. And I may never be a rich man, or live long enough, then sadly I have a tale or two for the nephews. And I dig the thought of that.


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  1. Robert says . . . | October 12, 2010 / 6:14 pm

    That’s one of the best ‘surf videos’ I’ve ever seen. Really captures the feeling of being immersed the wet, cold ocean — and loving it. Reminded me of surfing northern California as a kid, all alone, in the fog. Great work!

  2. Davor Bakovic says . . . | October 13, 2010 / 12:25 pm

    This is fascinating and beautiful video work.Some scenes,like rain drops on the surface,waves overpowering all,dive under the surface into the quite and green.
    Sometimes music is too loud and disturbing author words.I watched it time after time letting frames and sounds fill space around me.Thanks for this link !!Davor

  3. Kristin says . . . | March 2, 2011 / 10:54 pm

    this video is awe inspiring. dark, beautiful, brutal with strong accents of light. his words slug someone looking for a reason to follow their gut. I have watched it multiple times and will watch it again and again. honest and straight from a pumping warm heart.

  4. jbaysurfer says . . . | July 25, 2011 / 2:40 pm

    “If there’s no future in it, (at) least it’s a present worth remembering.”

  5. seek adventure says . . . | August 3, 2011 / 3:19 am

    Really cool video dude! really inspiring to see..That’s really the life for the love of outdoor adventure. Great job two thumbs up!

  6. remosito says . . . | December 12, 2011 / 5:15 am

    By far my favorite short at this years European Outdoor Film Tour! Just had to find it and the text online.

    Question: Doesn’t he actually say: “If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping.” and not “If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living where I’m scraping.”

  7. Sönke says . . . | January 25, 2012 / 8:44 am

    thank you so so much for that!

  8. Wendy says . . . | March 18, 2012 / 8:09 pm

    TuckWillow. It has called me for over a year. I finally looked it up. I’m Irish. Why did the words Tuck Willow wake me? Call me? Haunting video. Stunning video. Masterpiece.

  9. spiro says . . . | May 8, 2012 / 7:50 pm

    I think you mean, “if I live long enough, then certainly have a tale or two for the nephews.”

  10. Mike says . . . | November 6, 2012 / 12:43 pm

    Correction, he says “If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping”

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