What’s your background? Did you study photography?
I was first introduced to photography from my dad, he was always using SLR cameras and would shoot a lot of underwater photography using the old Nikonos system. I remember viewing his slide shows of his diving trips to the islands and was taken by what seemed other worldly and the power a good photograph could convey. My passion grew out of this really. I decided to take it seriously in my mid twenties and thought I'd see If I could make a living out of it. I didn’t study as I felt I could learn more working within the industry and being in my mid twenties already didn’t want to spend the next few years in “school”. Instead I worked really hard for four years assisting top photographers which I essentially look at as my apprenticeship.
When did you realise that photography is or could be your career?
I guess when I started getting regular work and getting paid for it. I did a lot of assisting for nix in my early days learning the ropes, I think it paid off because people recognised I was committed and it opened up opportunities. Im not saying go out and work for free but sometimes when assisting offering a hand can go a long way.
How does your history come in to the work you do today?
I think its integral in what and how I shoot today. I spent my late teens and early twenties traveling and living in different parts of the world: America, Europe, South America. It all opened my eyes to what was out there, the people and different cultures, amazing landscapes. I've always had a passion for diving as well; the ocean and being in the outdoors. I think this has all come full circle with the direction of my work today.
When you’re at the top of your game, winning awards and working with high profile clients, what continues to give you personal satisfaction?
I'll tell you when I get there… haha. I think winning awards and working with high profile clients is great and it’s certainly nice to have some recognition from time to time for all the hard work you have to put in. More so though its all part of a bigger picture to continue to improve, work on your craft, set new goals. Personal satisfaction comes from doing what I love, it’s a privilege to be able to work in an industry that takes you places, offers you adventure and you get paid for it.
I think goal setting is a big part of it, without personal goals you have no where to go.
Genre-wise, do you have a favourite type of assignment to shoot?
I love shooting lifestyle out in the landscape, if it can have water or mountains with it as well all the better. I would happily spend my days underwater shooting also if I could….
Can you pick a favourite job so far?
There are several so its hard to single one out but I think on a personal scale it would be a trip I made to Ningaloo reef in North Western Australia several years ago. I went diving with Whale sharks and its was an experience I will never forget. It blew my mind and I got paid to be there, not bad…
How important is it to you to create personal work?
Personal work is extremely important, It is what really gives you your drive, direction, creative freedom. It's important not just from a personal level to keep the fires burning but also in a commercial sense, this is what creatives want to see. They want to know where your heart is at, what drives you, how you see things. I think personal work is really the only way to grow as a photographer. It can be hard at times to find/make the time, come up with ideas you want to follow through with, put yourself out there to make it happen. Its quite easy to say no to yourself, it’s a lot harder to say yes and then push yourself to get it done. The sense of satisfaction you get from personal work is always worth it in the end and is something I constantly remind myself of when I find myself lagging…
What would we be surprised to find in your gear bag? Do you carry any unlikely essentials?
I don’t think I have anything too crazy in there, maybe a shower cap from a hotel in case it rains… instant camera cover!
What motivates or inspires you? If you’re working on a concept, what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
Dramatic landscapes definitely inspire me, other photographers work, film, ideas in the night… I find when I travel and get out of the day to day life that my mind frees up and ideas happen. You see things traveling and think “ohh that could look cool done like this or that…” I think being open to ideas is a big part of inspiration, don’t be too closed off with your outlook.
If I'm searching for inspiration I will definitely start researching, images, locations etc. I have folders of images with lighting, colour palettes, locations etc, you might only take snippets from each one but you start to build up a picture in your mind of how it will look.
Do you have any advice for young photographers?
Be patient and work hard! It might be cliche but without some serious hard work you wont make it, be prepared to take some knock backs. Don’t take them personally, they are all part of growing as an artist. Be motivated, no one else is going to be if you aren't. Be patient, you’re not going to have it all happen overnight. Shoot lots of self initiated work and keep the passion, without that there is no driver. When it's time to start taking on paid commissions, charge appropriately. It might be your passion but its also your business, business aint free!
Imagine you’re picking a piece of work from another photographer for the wall of your home, what would you be looking for in the image?
A sense of drama, a story, great composition, amazing light or colour palette, balance… All of these in one image and you’ve got something special.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?
Probably figuring out how I could make a living as a scuba diver.
If you'd like to see more of Mark's work see below: