There's a lot about Australian Mark Tipple's career as a photographer that appears backwards. Take, for example, his beginnings. The then 21-year-old had already been filming for years before he attached a lens to his first still camera and took his first photo, a shot of himself looking into a mirror. The next day, Tipple drove four hours with a few friends to a remote beach where he planned to surf and take pictures. There were no waves, so the group turned around and drove home. "But I remember shooting the colors in the sky and the flat calm ocean," he says. "So I could at least have something from spending eight hours in the car."
Tipple loved to chase waves. At 19, he started working day jobs for four months at a time so he could earn enough money to travel during six-month stints to film surfers and bodyboarders. The gigs were rewarding, but by 2002 he had become frustrated at having to wait until he could get back to a computer screen or a TV to see his results. Then, his father offered him that gift that inspired a simple reflection. "A print on the wall doesn't need a screen to be viewed," he says. "My dad bought me a camera for my 21st birthday and I was hooked straight away."
His father was a traveling surfer and his brother was a marine biologist. Tipple filled the space in between by focusing on filming and photographing the ocean. I called him up to talk about his series The Underwater Project (on Facebook), in which he captures the contorted expressions and shapes of swimmers diving beneath waves. He's gotten a lot of attention for the series, and has used it to transfer eyes to his less publishable projects, like the Ocean film embedded below about an aid worker in Tanzania.