Artist Spotlight – Marc Montocchio

Marc Montocchio

BD’s artist spotlight is on underwater, nature and adventure photographer, Marc Montocchio (website). He shares some of his experiences swimming with billfish around the world and talks about what it all means to him.

BD: Where do you live?

Marc Montocchio: I live on the water in Morehead City, North Carolina.

BD: What mediums do you work in?

Marc Montocchio: I’m a photographer and videographer.

BD: What is your favorite medium?

Marc Montocchio: I will always be a stills guy no matter where the filmmaking takes me. It’s what I’ve done professionally for almost 20 years and it informs every creative decision I make when shooting moving images. I think seeing the still images printed on giant sheets of aluminum really make them come alive and is my favorite way to see my work.

BD: What are your other hobbies, and are they related to your artwork?

Marc Montocchio: Work is my hobby. I do what I love. Any day I find myself in the water teasing a billfish or on a helicopter charging after a boat with camera in hand, I’m a very happy guy. What I do is a lifestyle not a job or a hobby. I do however enjoy a day off once in while, on our boat, chilling with my wife and dog at one of the many sand bars or islands around the southern Outer Banks.

BD: How did you get started and what was the evolution of your style?

Marc Montocchio: I started shooting stills underwater as a South African Navy diver in the late 80’s. Navy time, Navy cameras, Navy film, Navy labs; can’t beat that. My style evolved as a result of being a scuba diver, free diver, sport fishing boat captain and fly guide at different stages of my life, working in many different places around the world. The only common thread was my camera and being in and on the water. That eventually became what I wanted to do fulltime in 1996.

BD: What goals do you have for your work, what does the future hold?

Marc Montocchio: That’s a hard one. I find myself torn between stills and video. Video cost a lot more in gear and time to produce but pays more commercially. I think if I was independently wealthy and didn’t have to cover the bills at the end of the month I would be working on new still images. I’ve shot all the species of marlin and sailfish in the world, free swimming but I’ve got this thing where I want to do it again, better then before. I want bigger fish even closer to the camera, charging even harder.

I also haven’t shot a free-swimming swordfish, which is like a stone in my shoe that I can’t get out.

I think at the end of the day my goal is to capture imagery that has not been seen. I want people to stand in front of a gigantic 8′ aluminum print or watch a film I’ve shot and go “WHOA”!

BD: Is there a message behind your artwork?

Marc Montocchio: Very much so. Make people see how important and incredible this ocean is. Show them that it’s worth saving from the tiniest bait minnow to the grander marlin. Make them passionate about caring for the future of the ocean. People will only protect what they love.

BD: What or who (or both) inspires you?

Marc Montocchio: I’m inspired by individuals that have put in their “10,000 hours” to understand one type of fish. Whether it be a blue marlin or the ability to tickle the chin of a 15′ tiger shark. I’ve worked with some great boat captains, fishing guides, divers, camera operators and rely and learn so much from each. Directly related to my billfish work, the late Harry Gray who in Quepos Costa Rica in the early 90’s showed me what was possible when teasing a billfish. Harry Gray stories have inspired so many of my billfish shots. One photo in particular is called “Shades of Gray”, named after Harry in Quepos many years after Harry’s death.

BD: What has been the hardest project, or what is the hardest aspect of you art?

Marc Montocchio: The first free swimming blue marlin shot. If it wasn’t for owners like Keith English on the “Click Through” that were prepared to give me their big sport fishing boats for what by now must total weeks, I would never have gotten the shots I have. It’s very hard to watch crew’s faces when they hear for the first time they are going to be pulling nothing but hookless teasers for the next week. But it’s not long after we tease up our first billfish and have him swimming around a dead boat for 5 minutes while I get the shots that they get into it and realize what a great learning experience it is not to have any hooks in the water. Relying purely on your teasing ability to hold a fish in the spread really separates the men from the boys.

BD: What brings you the most satisfaction or sense of accomplishment?

Marc Montocchio: Watching peoples faces at a show or in a gallery when they see, say a print say of a blue marlin, frozen 10,000 of one second before he strikes the teaser from 2′ in front of the underwater camera. It adds a new dimension to the already hooked fish shot from the boat.

Thanks Marc for sharing your time and talents with us at BD. Check out his website to see more of his amazing work.