At only 20-years-old, Duncan Macfarlane has already fine tuned his photography skills and travels the world looking for new subjects to capture. FOCUS talks to him about his colourful life so far …
For someone who’s still so young, you’ve had a pretty colourful life. Tell us a bit about your childhood in Eastern Africa.
My dad had a job as a mining engineer over there, so the whole family went and set up camp there for four years. It was an amazing opportunity, getting to experience a culture so different to ours, even at a young age. We got to see all the big game parks over there and travel through a few of the other African countries, while I did school at the International School.
There was a rough patch in the middle when our next door neighbour (the American Embassy) was bombed in ‘97, but we got through that unscathed and stayed for another 2 years.
How long have you been living on the Coffs Coast, and what brought you here?
We came back from Africa for my uncle’s wedding in 2000, with plans to head back and sail from Africa to the Caribbean; however, that fell through, and we have stayed here ever since.
When did you first discover your passion for photography?
Somewhere near the end of high school I started really being interested in it. I surfed since I moved here and began taking photos of some friends and the more photos I took, the more my interest grew.
Have you had any formal training?
Up until now, I’ve had zero formal training. But I spend almost 100% of my time thinking about photography, reading about it or doing it, which has taught me a lot. Also, my dad is pretty photo savvy, so he has taught me a lot too. But I’m planning on doing a little now to take me to the next level.
What equipment do you use?
I use all Nikon equipment and Aquatech housings for my water photography.
What’s your favourite thing(s) to photograph?
Surfing is definitely my number one passion and consumes most of my time.
However, as I go on and see and learn more things, my tastes are branching out into weddings – which I love doing, travel photography, documentary and the occasional fashion/advertising shoot.
You’ve recently just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka and America. Were you working as a photographer on that trip? What was that experience like?
I went over to America to accept an international surfing photography award, which was awesome. So, I didn’t shoot much there; I just shook hands and socialised with people in the industry.
However, in Sri Lanka I was working as a photographer covering the Sri Lankan Airlines Pro surfing contest, held at Arugam Bay. Sri Lanka was such a cool place. It almost seemed like it was a perfect mix of India, Africa and Indonesia. The people have gone through a pretty rough time over there, with the Boxing Day tsunami hitting hard – as well as the recently ended three decade war. However, the people are the most positive and welcoming people I’ve ever met.
The waves are beautiful, the food amazing and all in all, it was one of the most rewarding trips I’ve been on.
How have your travels shaped your work?
I think the more you know and experience means the more you can access and draw from when you’re taking photos. I’ve met a lot of people and seen a lot of things through my travel so far, and each experience gives you the opportunity to learn.
It may not have a direct effect on my photography, but it can give me different perspectives, techniques and goals – which I think end up shaping you as a person and shows through in your work.
What have been some of the highlights of your photography career so far?
I’d definitely say winning the Follow the Light Foundation Grant in America was a highlight. Such a high level of competition and the past winners are all my favourite surf photographers, so it was an honour.
Have you any plans to establish your own business here on the Coffs Coast?
I split my time between travelling overseas and spending time at home on the East Coast. I’ve slowly been building contacts and plan on opening a wedding photography and commercial photography business very soon, while continuing to work internationally on my photojournalism.
What projects are you looking forward to?
Right now I’ve got a upcoming trip to the Mentawi Islands to document SurfAid’s (an international aid organisation) contribution to improving general health to the area and tsunami/earthquake recovery efforts, which I’m really looking forward to. And past that, I’m looking at heading to Hawaii to cover the winter surfing there.
Any advice for budding photographers?
I think that the most important thing with getting anywhere with photography is:
1) Always be very positive and respectful to everyone – especially in business. If you are, then people will want to work with you more.
2) You never know where something will take you, so chase up everything and ALWAYS do your best.Some of my biggest jobs have come as a result of the smallest thing. Oh, and you’ve got to take good photos too!