Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spotlight 7 Week 19: Mark without Hair

Mark Without Hair Interviewed and curated by former presenter Francois Coquerel.

1. Hi mark, how are you these days, are you working on something special right now?
I am doing well. Unfortunately I am not working on something at the moment. I work as a graphic artist by day and do not have much time to concentrate on photographic work. I have lots of ideas I would love to pursue but not the time.

I would like to further develop an idea I have regarding the horizon. I began sea kayaking a few years ago and fell in love with the abstract and minimal environment I encounter when kayaking on the Chesapeake Bay, here in Maryland where I live. I have a theory that there is something cleansing and purifying about experiencing a vast and blank horizon. I love photographing it and I would like in the future to spend a great deal more time developing this series as I think the world in general is suffering from over development. I would like to show the contrast within my environment from city shorelines to more rural or undeveloped horizons. And how through over development we are losing something we don’t even know we need or should preserve.

2. How did you start photography? Your work is very personal, but were you very influenced by specific artists?
I started seriously taking pictures when I was probably 14. I had a very influential teacher in school who helped spark the interest and direct my learning. He was a great teacher, very inspiring and I am forever grateful for those years. I later went to College and received a fine art degree in photography. Right now I really love the work of Edward Burtynsky,

I am just blown away by his work. And at the same time I feel completely unmotivated to pursue my own ideas after seeing and learning more about him and his work. I hate that. I think the problem is called “killing the Buddha”.

I love the tonal qualities and pure subtlety of Mark King.

I am also inspired by different artists who might be painters, sculptors and maybe also work in photography. I enjoy artists who feel compelled to work in different media. I think they can bring a different viewpoint and form of expression than what you might get from an artist who only works as a photographer. I really like the work of Chuck Close. He is a very interesting artist and person. I love his paintings and his large format polaroids. Its all beautiful work

3&4. The kids in this series are your own kids, right? How do you work with them? Do you ask them specific things or are you waiting for the right moment to take your photos?

Most of the children are my two, but there are a few in my Flickr stream that are close friends of theirs. How I work or photograph them has changed as they have gotten older. When I first started a few years ago taking photographs again I would wait for the right moment to happen to snap the shutter. They got accustomed to seeing the camera held at my eye waiting. After a while they would forget I was trying to take a picture of them and when they were absorbed in their own actions again was usually when I chose to capture their image. That type of image is much harder to take now that they are older, so I try to take more formal portraits of them. And I will direct them more or ask them not to smile or laugh or pick their nose etc.. Sometimes though it’s the images of when they become bored or complacent during these sessions that I get an image that I find interesting. I think it shows more about who they are. Because they are complex and multifaceted children. Not just simple and happy. But emotional and sometimes grumpy, tired, happy and/or bored.

5. This series has a very special place in your work, and it's all about your kids, could you take the same kind of pictures with adults or unknown people? Tell us about this choice to work with them.
It is special. At least to me. I'm surprised (and grateful) you and other people take an interest in the images. I would like to work on a series of images of people I don’t know. I need to push myself to do this because I think I could learn a great deal from the experience and perhaps break free of some preconceived notion I have of the work it would produce. I think it would be easy to take similar images of strangers. Usually when you ask to take a strangers photograph you will either get a blank expression because they think you will instruct them to look a certain way if you want it or they don’t know how they should look or feel during this moment or they give you their predefined and generic Kodak smile. I see people every day I wish I had the time to stop and photograph. One day I hope I will. I find it more interesting to take images of my family because of the interest I have with them as subjects and wonder whether I could maintain a similar interest with strangers to the point that I would push myself to get what I would consider an interesting image or if I would become complacent and just accept what I got from the moment and move on.

6. Some of those pictures, especially the one in the darkness, are really strange and a bit scary, but they are at the same time family pictures, how do you deal with this?
I think the darkness is more about creating mood, experimenting with shaping or directing light or perhaps just the natural light that was available at that moment. I do tend to use the darkness or conversely the lightness in an image to create a sense of mood. Perhaps that’s cliché or trite. I don’t know. But it works sometimes. I think it is hard to develop a sense of mood in a properly lit well exposed image that is full of saturated colors. I think that’s why you see the style currently being overused by commercial photographers of over saturated, contrasty images full of grain and detail like the work of Gary Land. I don’t mean to speak ill of this style . I like it and find it very appropriate for what it is used for. But it is a technical way of combining high contrast, dark settings , mood and saturation all into one image.

7. I always have this feeling that the ambiguity of some of thoses photos (pieces of art and family pictures at the same time) makes that people don't really get it, Do you agree?
I agree, perhaps. I think you mean there is ambiguity in the images I make of my close family which is at odds with the outlet I show them in (Flickr). So yeah, sure there probably is some disconnect. I may also not be striking a cord with most viewers. I don’t know. Take this image

which I really like and am very happy with. It doesn’t work for everyone but I think it has a tension and awkwardness that I wish I could develop more in other images or future images. I think ambiguity is a style that many artist choose to use as a form of expression. Many artist use it as a tool to be artsy, noncommittal and my images fall into that category. But sometimes I feel like its an excuse or easy position to take as an artist. That’s why I like the nudes from Alec Soth’s Niagara series. Most of the series doesn’t do much for me. But in those nudes he managed to deal with the issue or the theme he has developed very directly and put it in your face. I think those images he managed to come out and say what he is trying to get across without being ambiguous. Sometimes being direct is more powerful and meaningful than being ambiguous and I admire that. But I guess I also enjoy the ambiguity in my image linked to above and feel that it adds to its interest and doesn’t deter from it. But maybe thats just me talking out of both sides of my mouth. (?)

8. what kind of camera do you use?
Film and digital, new and old. I love them all. I dislike talking about cameras. Painters don’t talk about their brushes, sculptors their chisels. Why do photographers care?

9. OK, favorite love songs?
“The Message of love” by the Pretenders (played as loud as you can take it)

10.favorite fight song?
“Cross Town Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix (played as loud as you can take it)


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