Captured Moments: Through the Lens of Fiona Mullen
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau
There is a true art to the craft of photography that I’ve always appreciated and revered. Those gifted in the craft seize images that our human eyes may normally overlook or simply are incapable of seeing. Photographers give us a glimpse of an amazing moment, as captured by their unique eye, as well as through the medium of the camera’s lens.
Fiona Mullen is one such photographer who is not only taking pictures, but creating art through her subjects of choice. With no formal training in photography and displaying a talent far beyond her years, Fiona is surely someone to watch as her work explodes onto the world.
Zappo: Fiona can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Mullen: My name is Fiona Mullen and I’m a 17-year old photographer from Morristown, NJ. I’m currently a senior in high school and a passionate self-taught photographer. I shoot everything from surf to portraits and lifestyle.
Zappo: When did you start taking photographs and what initially drew you to the art of photography? (You can also describe in your answer how you got into surf photography specifically)
Mullen: It all started when I bought my first DSLR camera. It was nothing fancy, just a Canon Rebel T3. At first all I wanted was a GoPro to take some videos of snowboarding and surfing for fun, but my parents convinced me to go for the real thing. When I got that first camera, I messed around with it taking portraits of my friends and some surfing photos. Then I really started to get into it; I worked a ton of babysitting jobs to upgrade equipment, sent out some emails, and starting shooting all the time. I’ve always been drawn to the ocean and loved the water, so surf photography happened naturally for me. I started by taking a few photos of my cousins surfing and eventually every time there was a good swell I went down to shoot it.
Zappo: What are the unique challenges to shooting surfing as compared to the other avenues of photography you pursue?
Mullen: For me the biggest challenge shooting surf is not having the ocean right there at my fingertips. I used to make my mom to drive me an hour south down the Parkway all the time, just so I could get a few shots for fun. Now I’m driving all over for shoots while still attending high school where I live. That’s only part of the challenge though. There are tons of photographers in New Jersey shooting surf, so the challenge is how I shoot that same swell differently. That is what I love about it though, the hunt for those new angles and trying to get the shots that no one else will. Creating a different image so that when someone sees it, they almost don’t believe it’s in New Jersey.
Zappo: What is your favorite medium to use when taking photographs? (Digital or film, do you experiment with various mediums)
Mullen: I started shooting digital, although recently I have been messing around with film. For me and I think for any photographer who started shooting digital, film is a whole different game. Instead of shooting hundreds of photos at a time, you’re only shooting at most 36 images. Film has helped me improve my photography in so many ways. I started shooting with a Nikonos (35mm underwater camera) in the water recently and it’s been super fun since I don’t have a housing for my DSLR.
Zappo: You are a young self-taught photographer whose work displays a distinct wisdom of the craft. What inspires your approach and do you plan to further your development through the avenue of collegiate education?
Mullen: I started shooting for fun a few years ago and just became more and more serious about it as time went on. I dropped other activities after school to focus on photo and basically dedicated my life to it. If you have ever seen the film Dark Side of the Lens by Mickey Smith, he is spot on in describing why surf photography is so addicting. He talks about how cameras help him translate what he sees and just enables him to live creatively. That film definitely inspired me and basically gave me all the answers to why I spend so much time and money on this craft. I’m planning to go to school for photo and also get some type of business degree to compliment it. Still searching and deciding where I want to apply, but I definitely see photo in my future!
Zappo: Describe the elements that you feel make an exceptional photograph?
Mullen: I think an exceptional photograph gives off some type of emotion. It’s also when both the technical side of the photo and the content is amazing. It’s really hard, especially in surf photography when everything is moving so quickly, to capture the perfect moment while having it framed right with the right settings as well. Being in the right place at the right time also helps to capture an amazing photo.
Zappo: Where are your dream travel destinations to capture astounding images?
Mullen: I haven’t done much traveling besides around the country. I did go on a short trip to Ireland a few years ago which was an amazing experience. Luckily one day I was there I was able to shoot some surf which was awesome. I drove around the coast for hours having no idea where I was going just to get a few shots. I’m really hoping for more experiences like that in my future. I would love to travel to surf destinations with beautiful landscapes and extreme weather conditions like Iceland and Norway. Africa seems like an amazing place to shoot too, where the desert meets the sea in Namibia and those world famous spots like J-Bay in South Africa. My list of places I want to travel is endless.
Zappo: What do you feel is most rewarding aspect of your photographic work?
Mullen: I feel like most people think that the most rewarding aspect is all the love and feedback, but there’s more to it. I think the feeling of just creating something for myself, all the hard work put into it, and being happy with the end result is so rewarding. Most of the time I’m hard on myself with my work and usually not satisfied with what I’ve created, but when I am, that is one of the best feelings.
Zappo: Any final thoughts or shout outs?
Mullen: I’m having my first photo exhibit on October 11 from 5-7 pm. If anyone is in north Jersey that day, it will be at Academic Resources in Morris Plains.
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