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A New Chapter Begins

“Pictures are often made for no other reason than that the act demonstrates the power of the photographer over time, the partial fulfillment of a deeply rooted wish.” – Ralph Evans

Tomorrow, the movers come and a new chapter in my life begins. I’ll be leaving Seattle and moving to Chicago to work for the wonderful charity and service organization, Rotary International (the headquarters for the Rotary Clubs around the world).

When I look back at my life, it’s taken the form of a series of chapters. First, growing up in Toledo, Ohio, followed by the Navy north of Seattle (and gaining an extended family), and working on flight simulators around the world. Then came living in Montreal, a city that I fell in love with, along with some dear friends there and nearby.

The current chapter has been in Seattle again, this time for 16 years. When I look back at my time here, it’s amazing how quickly it’s gone by, but also incredible how much living has happened during that time. Love and loss, pleasure and depression, fun, stress and the beauty that is the Pacific Northwest.

So why am I leaving such a beautiful place to move to Chicago? A few reasons, primarily the wonderful opportunity to work for Rotary International and be able to give back to the community. On a personal level, I think I was just ready for a new adventure as well.  Chicago is a wonderful city that I look forward to exploring.  I’ve made big moves before, but this one is a bit of a leap of faith. While I’ve visited Chicago a couple of times, and liked it a lot, I definitely don’t know it as well as other cities that I’ve made a major move to. Sounds like an exciting adventure to me.

What does any of this have to do with my photography? Everything, really. I want to capture the dream and emotion of this new place as I’ve done with others.  It will also play a big part in this project that I’ve been working on the last couple of years all about the concept of Home. How does a new place that you’ve been placed into become “home”? I have no idea, but it will be interesting to explore. Or is it really a place that defines home?

There is one more chapter after Chicago, and that’s retirement. I don’t know when that will be, or where it will take place, but that will be a fascinating adventure as well.

And that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Find someplace, or someone, that you find fascinating and open your heart to it.  What happens next will be unpredictable, adventurous, and undoubtedly wonderful.

Talk soon,

Mark

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The Source of Inspiration

Muse

What is the source of inspiration?

Is it the Muse, who places her gentle hand on your shoulder and whispers in your ear? Is it the excitement of having a new piece of gear? Is it seeing another artist’s work and realizing what is possible? Or is it diving deep inside yourself?

In my mind, inspiration can come from only One True Source: Love.

Passion for your subject, passion for life, passion for someone you love…it all comes down to love.

With love, all things are possible. The future is wide open. The doubts that nagged you at your lowest depths suddenly seem so trivial to be non-existent.

I see so many photographers who are on the never-ending quest for technical perfection. I know this will sound contrary to what I’ve been saying, but I actually have no problem with that. If it gives them joy, then go for it.

But it will never be art.

Art comes from a crazy place – a place that can’t be fully defined, no more than love can. It can’t be measured in megapixels or sensor size. It’s measured in emotion and depth of feeling.

Once you’re able to allow yourself to dive into the deep pool of passion, you’ll realize it’s not as scary or intimidating as it seemed from the outside, in fact it’s rather peaceful. Your purpose and mission in life becomes clear, and that brings clarity and serenity.

Keith Carter has a passion for his home town. Ansel Adams for Yosemite and the West. Clyde Butcher for the Everglades. Vermeer for light. It goes on and on.

Find your passion, open yourself up to all it entails, and the gentle but powerful Muse will be standing beside you forever.

Talk soon,

Mark

(Thanks to my friend Quinn Jacobson for the initial Plato quote)

About a book

book2

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

Some of you know that I’ve been working on a book for months now.  It was supposed to be out at the end of last year and I still haven’t finished it.

What you see above is a proof book – the final book won’t look anything like that.  I used it for sequencing, editing and testing form factors.  And it will never see the light of day.

Why not?

I’m just not happy with it. It doesn’t convey the emotion that I want it to, I still don’t have the sequencing exactly right, and I still haven’t decided on the final structure.

I’ve learned a lot in the process.  All about bindings, printing techniques, minimum orders (yikes!) , editing, sequencing, how books are laid out, and the myriad of options to make a book play as a cohesive object.

The biggest challenge for me is the printing.  The photos inside have a unique quality that I have yet to see in a printed page.  They require inky deep blacks and brilliant whites in order to create the impact I need.  That works great on a photographic paper, but is very hard to find in a printed book.  I’ve done tons of tests, met with lots of printers and haven’t met one that could do it at the price point I need/want.

High-end custom printers can quickly approach $700 – $800 per copy, and while I want this to be a “legacy project”, I just can’t justify that cost in my mind.

So I’ve set it aside for the moment.

I need to look at the very definition of a book and see if I can come up with a creative solution that can still retain the qualities I need in order to feel like this project can be called complete.

It’s a frustrating time right now, but I need to wait until I can discover the solution.

Until then, thank you for your patience.

Mark

Interview for On Landscape magazine

I was very honored to have been interviewed for On Landscape magazine, out of the U.K.  Steve Coleman did what he called a “slow interview”, meaning it was done over e-mail and there was time given between the questions so that I could carefully consider the answers.

Steve is a wonderful photographer out of Australia, and is always striving to go deep into the meaning and thought-processes behind photography, rather than talk about gear.  I appreciate that point of view and wish more photographers would give that due consideration.

At first, I was a bit hesitant about doing the interview, as I don’t really think of myself as a landscape photographer, but then I realized that I don’t really have a classification or label for what I do, so I didn’t stress about it.

You can read the interview here.

I hope you enjoy it.

Mark

P.S.  About that book…the next post will explain where I’m at with it.

Enter: A great photo book for a great cause

Call for Entries: Toy Camera Photographers for Tots

Here’s a chance to be in a great photo book for a great cause:

My buddy Bill Wolff, one of the owners of Composing with Images Press (a not for profit publisher), is putting together a photo book to support Toys for Tots.  ALL the proceeds will go to help children in the areas of the U.S. recently devastated by tornadoes.

The theme of the book will be “Play”, but that’s very broadly interpreted, so see some of the examples on the site.  The contest is open to all photographers who use Toy Cameras (see how they define it on their site).

Here is more about it in his words:

“CWiP is seeking images that explore, complicate, and represent in compelling ways the concept of Play.  These might include, but are certainly not limited to, photographs that deal with imaginary play, word play, adult play, children’s play, animal play, games, or the various kinds of materials and/or spaces associated with play. Similarly, photographs might represent play from the perspective of a child’s imagination, or from a toy’s perspective, or they might take up questions about what it means to play or explore the matter of who is allowed (or disallowed) to play. These are, of course, just suggestions for representing play. However you interpret the theme Play through your viewfinder is what we are looking for!

This call is open to amateur and professional photographers worldwide working with toy, lo-tech, homemade, or modified analog cameras.

Note:  Though the book is going to benefit children in the areas ravaged by the tornadoes, we are specifically not seeking images of the tornado destruction. Again, we are looking for photographs that explore in compelling ways the concept of Play.”

CWIP did a similar book to help people affected by the disasters on the Gulf Coast and it was a big hit which helped many people.

It’s such a great cause, so please enter.  You’ll not only get some great visibility but you’ll help keep the childhood in the child.

See all the details and enter here.

Ttyl,

Mark

The Confidence Game

By all accounts, things are going great with my photography.  I’m in more gallery shows this year, my prints are selling, I’ve been in a couple of magazines, etc.  And yet I have a confession to make:  My confidence is probably at an all-time low.

I should warn you ahead of time that there are no answers in this post.  No pithy advice, cunning plans or anything of the sort.  I just wanted to share my inner thought process because I think it’s more common among photographers than we usually care to admit.

I’m a compulsive self-analyzer, and I’m usually pretty good at it.  I’m relatively intelligent, reasonably self-aware and can usually nail down what the cause of an emotional state is within a relatively short amount of time. That’s what bugs me about this.

My best guess is that it has to do with expectations that I put on myself.

I’ve also determined that there are many levels of success (at least as how I define it, everyone is different).  The problem is that I can now see quite a few levels ahead of me, and getting there seems so far away.  The insecurities creep in…the doubts.

This topic came up when I was talking to one of the most successful fine art photographers out there (again, as I define it).  He mentioned that these thoughts are normal, and even he still has them – those days where you just lay on the couch and think that you suck.  Somehow that’s comforting.

One thing that I do know is that I have to shoot through it.  Once I get into a roll of film, I’m usually okay.  It’s getting out and doing it that’s the tough part.  At least when I look at the negatives, I can analyze things and see where I can do better.  Without those negatives though, I’m just lost in my own thoughts.  The negatives make it tangible.  Plan-able.  Resolvable.

I know that these things are cyclical.  I’ve also had times where I’m “in the zone” and getting some of those shots that make you look at them and say to yourself “Damn, that’s good – who took that?”.  That’s the bonus – the thing that makes all of this agony worthwhile.  There’s no high like it.

I just have to keep telling myself that it’ll come, as long as I keep shooting.

Ttyl,

Mark