Where are the photos?

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting many photos lately.  For a good while, actually.  Here’s why:

For the last two years, I’ve been working on a new photo project.  It’s different than my previous work.  I wanted to go deeper, more into emotions, motivations and interpretation of a theme.

It’s been an intensely personal experience that I’ve only recently revealed, to even my closest friends.  In fact, to date, I could count the number of people who have seen the work on one hand.

The shooting itself is complete – at least this chapter – and I had planned on sharing it online this week, but I’m not.

The goal of the project was to make something tangible and lasting – a legacy project, if you will.  As such, I’ll be publishing this as a fine art book.

It won’t be an inexpensive book printed by an online company.  The physical form that the book takes will be an integral component in the experience.  The materials used, the methodology, the technique, will all contribute to tell the story.  It will be a very limited edition available to collectors of the medium.

I’ve already engaged with a studio that will collaborate with me to put it together.  This process will take a few months, unfortunately, which means that you won’t see any new photos from that series posted online until then.  My target date for launch is October.

I’m very excited about the direction that this is heading and appreciate your patience.  I’ll do my best to make it worth it.




The photos on the wall

The gang
More than 30 years ago, I took the photo above. At least I think I did – doesn’t matter. It shows many of the people who were my second family after I joined the Navy. I was stationed on Whidbey Island, Washington. At the time, I knew nothing of the world, but knew I wanted to go places I’d never been.

Photos have the power to change lives; even ones you think are inconsequential. In 1979 I was stationed in Millington, Tennessee, attending technical school, when I saw a small 3×5 photo of mountains filled with pine trees taped to my roommate’s locker door. When I asked about it, he said that was where he grew up – near Seattle, Washington. A few weeks later, we were asked to fill out our “dream sheet” of where we wanted to be stationed when we finished school. I chose Whidbey Island, just based on that one photo. To my surprise, I got it.

Family is an interesting concept. You’re born with it, but if you’re lucky, friends can become family. My best friend Mike, shown above with the Zapata mustache and crouching in the center of the table, became like my brother, and still is to this day. All because of a 3×5” snapshot taped to a locker.

Yesterday, Mike and I went to revisit some of our old haunts on Whidbey (we both still live in the Seattle area). We visited Toby’s Tavern, in Coupeville, where Mike (and others) once got thrown into Puget Sound, where we shot darts, and where our friend Boone once said “You know, I’ve never walked away from a fight” when someone insulted his wife – and one punch later the offending jerk was on the floor.

After Toby’s we headed to Oak Harbor, where the Navy base was (is) and visited the Oak Harbor Tavern, where we attended quarter-beer night almost every week.

That’s when we received the surprise of the day.

On the wall were two photos – the one above and the one below. Both faded, neither technically very good, but man, did the memories come flooding back. There was Murph, who was like a second father to me when mine died shortly after I arrived at Whidbey. Whitey, who was once handed a written reprimand by the Navy for swearing too much and responded with “What the fuck is this?”. Dave, Katie, both Brad’s, and more. Each recognition was followed by stories, memories and laughs.

Next to it was the photo below, not sepia-toned, but turned brown by years of cigarette smoke (now banned) and stapled to the wall. That’s Murph in the hat, me in the striped shirt with my back to the camera, Chuck writing something, and Kelly the bartender, who’s still running the place. I think this one was taken a bit later judging by my hair length. Likely mid-80’s after I was out of the Navy. Photographer unknown.

The emotions that were evoked by these photos were palpable yesterday as we were transported to good times years ago. Those feelings are rare and precious…and all happened because of a 3×5 photo of some trees taped to a locker.

30 years from now, RAW converters may be a relic from the past, but the memories that you capture and print now will endure. Go. Print.

Like desert seeds awakened by a first rain, the memories will come back to life and it will be as if they never left.


Me - and my second dad

The Sensitive Artist

The “Art World” still baffles me.  I don’t understand the language, the personalities or the politics.

My buddy, photographer Quinn Jacobson, recently posted this on Facebook and it made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it here:

My favorite poem. If this doesn’t make you smile (or laugh), I don’t know what will – it’s the driving force behind me when I preach about art and photography. This is what you DON’T want to be (just to be clear).

I am a sensitive artist…
I am a sensitive artist.
Nobody understands me because I am so deep.
In my work I make allusions to books that nobody else has read,
Music that nobody else has heard,
And art that nobody else has seen.
I can’t help it
Because I am so much more intelligent
And well-rounded Than everyone who surrounds me.
I stopped watching tv when I was six months old
Because it was so boring and stupid
And started reading books
And going to recitals
And art galleries.
I don’t go to recitals anymore
Because my hearing is too sensitive
And I don’t go to art galleries anymore
Because there are people there
And I can’t deal with people
Because they don’t understand me.
I stay home
Reading books that are beneath me,
And working on my work,
Which no one understands
I am sensitive… I am a sensitive artist…

John Hall

Moving forward


Living the Dream

Technology is not a panacea. It alone will not move your art forward. Only through developing your own aesthetic – free from the tools that create it – can you find new dimensions for your work. – Robert Hall

Photography, like life, is all about moving forward.  I absolutely love to learn, and am constantly searching out new sources of inspiration, techniques, and locations.

One of the best ways to do that is to take a photographic workshop. They’re amazing opportunities to see new places, learn new techniques, get fresh eyes on your work, meet like-minded people and even hang out with some of the greats in the business. How else could you hang out with guys like Keith Carter, Sam Abell or National Geographic photographers and ask them all the questions you always wanted to ask?

The market is flooded with workshops though – some good and some…not so much.  So how do you know which one to choose before you hand over your hard-earned cash?

That’s where my friend Marco Ryan comes in.  He a fantastic photographer and just wrote an amazing e-book all about workshops called “Living the Dream”.  You’ll learn:

  • Questions to ask when choosing a workshop
  • Different types of workshops
  • Preparation
  • Gear choices
  • What to do when you arrive
  • Setting expectations

Honestly, I learned a ton reading it, and I’ve done many workshops over the years.

Here’s the best part: It’s only $7 and all of the profit goes to charity! Marco is heavily involved in Focus for Humanity – a great organization that provides grants to photographers pursuing projects in the area of humanitarian photography.  So your $7 will not only get you some fantastic information but you’ll be helping out other photographers as well.

It’s 71 pages long and filled with great information as well as Marco’s stunning photography, which in itself will inspire you to take a workshop.

You can purchase the ebook here: http://www.marcoryanphotography.com/ebooks/living-the-dream/

Me?  I’m off to photograph Kyoto, Japan and Thailand. See you soon!


Sharing some good news

I wanted to share some good news I got last night.  I won a silver medal at the Prix de la Photographie Paris.  I’m truly honored, considering the list of jurors.   Here’s the press release they issued:


WINNER OF PX3, Prix de la Photographie Paris

Mark Olwick of United States was Awarded Second Prize in the Altered Images Competition.

Paris, France Prix de la Photographie Paris (Px3) announces winners of Altered Images competition.

Mark Olwick of United States was Awarded: Second Prize in category Altered Images for the entry entitled, ” Three elephants, Botswana .”The jury selected Altered Images’s winners from thousands of photography entries from over 85 countries.

Px3 is juried by top international decision-makers in the photography industry: Carol Johnson, Curator of Photography of Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; Gilles Raynaldy, Director of Purpose, Paris; Viviene Esders, Expert près la Cour d’Appel de Paris; Mark Heflin, Director of American Illustration + American Photography, New York; Sara Rumens, Lifestyle Photo Editor of Grazia Magazine, London; Françoise Paviot, Director of Galerie Françoise Paviot, Paris; Chrisitine Ollier, Art Director of Filles du Calvaire, Paris; Natalie Johnson, Features Editor of Digital Photographer Magazine, London; Natalie Belayche, Director of Visual Delight, Paris; Kenan Aktulun, VP/Creative Director of Digitas, New York; Chiara Mariani, Photo Editor of Corriere della Sera Magazine, Italy; Arnaud Adida, Director of Acte 2 Gallery/Agency, Paris; Jeannette Mariani, Director of 13 Sévigné Gallery, Paris; Bernard Utudjian, Director of Galerie Polaris, Paris; Agnès Voltz, Director of Chambre Avec Vues, Paris; and Alice Gabriner, World Picture Editorof Time Magazine, New York.

ABOUT Px3: The “Prix de la Photographie Paris” (Px3) strives to promote the appreciation of photography, to discover emerging talent, and introduce photographers from around the world to the artistic community of Paris. Winning photographs from this competition are exhibited in a high-profile gallery in Paris and published in the high-quality, full-color Px3 Annual Book. Visit http://px3.fr

For Press Inquiries, Contact: info@px3.fr

About the Winner: Mark Olwick is a fine art photographer based in Seattle, Washington.

Contact Mark Olwick:

The best part of the press release?  Not a single mention of gear!

You can see the photo on my site – it’s the first one on the home page.  It’s also in the Africa gallery.


Crossroads part 2 – and no more Holga

When I finally reached an age with some acquired wisdom, I decided I would just do my photography for myself and not care whether my work was liked or sellable. That was a very liberating decision for me. – Cara Weston

In my previous blog post, I talked about reevaluating my photographic goals and my approach to them.  I reviewed some great advice from the replies on the blog, social media, and privately.

I tried to distill the joy I feel from my photography to its essence:  Why was I doing this?  What was it about the medium that made me happy? I had mentioned that my goal one day was to be in a museum collection.  That would still be fantastic, but I realized that was clouding my judgment.  I was trying to think of strategies and tactics to accomplish that goal.

Ugh. Just reading that last sentence makes me ill.

Strategies, tactics, agonizing over gear and methodology. How would it all be perceived by gallery owners, fine art collectors, curators?  I was spending way to much emotional energy on these – it was physically draining me. It wasn’t about the art itself anymore.

Peter Liepke, David Pitcher and others encouraged me to just concentrate on making the photos that make me happy and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  The rest will take care of itself. That’s not to say that I won’t market myself – I will – I just want the images to be first and foremost.

One of the things I was fighting against in the fine art world was being perceived as a “Holga photographer”.  To be honest, this pissed me off to no end.  I’m a photographer. Period.  What does it matter what gear I use?  Does a chef have to declare what type of pan he used to create an amazing meal?

So the other decision I made was to not discuss gear at all.  I use a variety of gear – whatever I need to use in order to get the vision out of my head and on to paper.  I’m simply not going to talk about it because it inevitably leads down a path that I find incredibly boring.

Will I continue to use a Holga?  Possibly.  Possibly not. Doesn’t matter.

Will I enter competitions that focus on toy cameras?  No, sorry.  That would only reinforce a label I detest.

The vision is getting clearer and my heart is feeling better. I think my photography will be better as a result.