Salt + Wax
Between 2009 and 2012 Mark travelled the length and breadth of the UK to capture the minutiae of surfing and what it means to the average British waterman.
Mark’s Salt + Wax project is a unique pursuit in the surfing world and one of the most honest, down-to-earth and unaffected I've seen in years. As editor of a surfing magazine, I spend most of my time working through thousands of surf-related photographs and hundreds of surf stories every week – all queued up and screaming for attention. Among them lies hidden gold, but by and large, most submissions are coming from similar quarters – often aiming to blow us away with a meaningful message, drop our jaws with a tropical-blue left hook, or stun us with a hard core, radical righthander.
His work floated in from a surprise angle and landed like a soft, cool flannel to the furrowed brow. It felt familiar, comfortable and endearing. In the language of surf, it appeared somewhat 'kooky' but was actually 'totally core' and truly insightful.
A board propped in the corner of a room that's sparsely but stylishly furnished, waiting for a weekend run to the coast and acting, meantime, as talisman, a winking reminder of another world you know you'll come back to as soon as chance allows; a wetsuit, boots and gloves dripping into a bath that looks like your granny's, or hanging from a rack in a small bedroom, just like your granny's; a surfer, simply positioned in front of a van before or after a session, eyes telling us more than a thousand words ever could ... these are how Mark Leary communicates with his camera – by framing and formalizing the everyday, the more banal moments, the fleeting realities of us, our obsession and the needs it demands of surfers on a daily basis. No pros, no tropical blues and mammoth mountains of water – this is surfing in the UK in all its glorious anti-glamour.
To be a surfer at all here demands only the most stripped down, basic ingredients of international surf culture and a whole heap of home-grown endurance. By putting the minutae of this life on a pedestal and formalizing them through portraiture, Mark has, it seems to me, captured something of the actual, true soul of UK surfing - Alex Dick-Reid, Editor-in-Cheif - The Surfer’s Path