David Maurice Smith used to be a social worker with indigenous communities in Canada. Now he lives in Manly, he is a professional photographer and one of the tallest men in the beaches, sometimes we call him Maurice…just because. (bonus: he did a little piece on Mr. Fraser himself that was featured in Coastalwatch)
TKA: What was the 1st job that you got and how were you pursuing it?
DMS: Whatever I could get. You can get a degree in photography but it doesn’t mean anything. Some of the best photographers didn’t study at all. It’s a real abstract pursuit. Some people assist, some people start up their business right away, and some people get a lucky break and everything happens. For me, it was getting whatever I could, like shooting horrible free little jobs, family portraits, and little commercials. Slowly it refines and you start doing what you want to do.
TKA: Do you think that with technology these days there is a rise with people calling themselves professional photographers? It’s more accessible for people to take it on as a career path?
DMS: I think so, but the reality of doing it professionally is’ that it’s not easy and its never been easy. Remember when we had to shoot Polaroid or you would have to wait, chewing your fingernails off when you’re processing film to wait and see if they f’d up the chemistry. So its easy to forget that it was bloody stressful…War photographers who would shoot for weeks in war zones and then ship their film off at some dodgy post office and pray that it would get where it needed to go. [Now] digital allows you to have a bit of a presence.
TKA: How do you feel about the creative community on The Northern Beaches and how it supports you as an artist?
DMS: I’ve managed to find peers where we support each other. There’s a bunch of people who are here that have the same interests. I don’t believe that the community here is as diverse as the city. There is a different draw there. The types of work that get shown here in The Northern Beaches is more geared towards surf culture. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, there’s a bunch of amazingly talented people out here who do that.
TKA: Speaking of the city, you were just involved in the incredible Head On Photo Festival…
DMS: Head On Photo Festival is Australia’s biggest photography festival. Some people say it’s the biggest in the world as far as its involvement. It’s a whole month of shows, [to be seen everywhere] from cafés to the NSW Art Gallery. There’s a lot of international photographers who come out now to exhibit, do book launches, and to teach workshops. It’s definitely the focal point for the photography community in Australia.
TKA: Origins is a photography project documenting the social roots of hip hop culture in New York City, and you’ve exhibited pieces from that project for Head On Festival at Global Gallery…
DMS: It’s the one I’m most proud of at this point. It cross cultural, a bit confronting, personal, cinematic… In my personal and in my commercial work, I want to have those elements in everything that I do, such as story telling. I think that a lot of photographers have a piece of work, job or project [that’s a game changer] and for me that was Origins.
TKA: In addition to the Head On Fest you’ve recently been nominated for an award.
DMS: Yes, The Sun Studio Emerging Photography Award, for commercial photography, it’s the biggest in Australia. The theme was ‘Glitter and Glam’. I put a twist on it and went with the really greasy, dirty glam. It’s a sequence from one of the night club shoots [from Origins]. Glittery, glammy – but you can see below the surface and realise that it’s really not. Hopefully that differentiates me from what everyone else has up on the walls.
TKA: Good luck, when do we find out?
DMS: 15th of June at Sun Studios.
Interview by Tatianna K. Alpert.
Local Focus is lovingly produced in collaboration with Little Hobo Project