It's been quite awhile since I updated this EA blog. Today marks the 10th anniversary of Seattle Next Door - photographer for EA. And for those that have been following EA - you also realize SND is EA.
Confused? You shouldn't be.
This rare SND interview was conducted in 2012. Look for a new EA interview very soon.
1. First, I have to ask - What made you pick Seattle Next Door as your professional working name? Is there a story behind that?
Greetings. Thank you for the interview. Well, I have to say that there is quite a long story about how I got involved in this whole photography thing. The short version is that I fell into it via a former co-worker. He had asked me to take a few headshots with his point and shoot camera one day. He was setting up his own business at the time and needed the headshots for his website. He and his wife liked them and it was his suggestion that I try to find models to do model photography. Please keep in mind I was doing NO photography whatsoever at this time - no landscapes, animals or anything else. So I was like, "no way!" (laughs).
A few weeks later the same co-worker asked me again if I had considered putting up an ad on Craig's List to find models. Again, I said no but that night, I went home and thought about it some more. Craig's List was a fairly new site at this time, too. For whatever reason, I thought, what the Hell, and put up an ad. When models started answering it, that's when everything got very real to me. I had to either go through with what I had started or disappear into oblivion. Obviously, you know which decision I made if you're reading this.
When I made the decision to actually go through with doing model-based shoots, I knew I needed a name, website, business card, etc. It took me a good few days before I settled on Seattle Next Door. At the time, I was envisioning my work to be of models that were very girl-next-door types, you know? So I changed the word girl to Seattle and Seattle Next Door was born. Also, it fit because I don't live in Seattle, but near it in Edmonds. I also knew that I never wanted something as boring and mundane as Mark Images or Sugiyama Photography. I wanted something bigger than that - more artistic and creative based, as well, especially considering that's the type of photography I do.
I initially wanted the photography to be a part of a bigger whole - a media house - a company that had photography, music, web design, etc.
And a little tidbit that not many know - in my wishful thinking at the time - I picked Seattle Next Door because I thought if this thing took off, I could replicate it in other cities around the country, even around the world. Portland Next Door, LA Next Door, Tokyo Next Door, etc. This hasn't happened….yet (laughs).
2. How long have you been doing photography?
Well, as what I would call a profession, it's only been over six years. I did dark room things in my younger years and some landscape things here and there in college. But the whole model based photography started in September 2005. I'm proud to say I've done over 600 shoots in that time. I've worked very hard at my craft. I do not consider it a hobby or a weekend thing. I take my work very seriously - but I don't take myself seriously at all (laughs).
3. Almost all of your shoots are done outdoors. Is there a reason why, i.e. better lighting or personal preference?
In the beginning, I think every photographer works outside because they don't have a studio to work out of. Being just the kind of person I am, I like the elements of the outdoors. I like the variety that the outdoors brings and I also like the challenge. There are so many variables outdoors to deal with that it's rarely if ever boring. The studio environment offers control - something the outdoors does not. Some photographers thrive in that safe, controlled, studio environment. Not me. I'd rather face the challenge that the outdoors holds every time, whenever possible.
Having said that, I have done a number of indoor shoots - many more than people realize. I like doing indoor work, too, but if I had my choice - it would be outdoors at a cool location.
4. A great deal of your work has also been with models. Do you think there will ever be a time that you decide to change your focus and stop using models?
I'm sort of torn about this question. I get frustrated, like most photographers who are a part of this "internet modeling/photography" generation, with the bullshit that comes with the territory - basically, unprofessional people. With shows like "America's Next Top Model" the modeling industry has really exploded - but with that explosion has come every girl who ever had even a remote inkling of stepping in front of a camera claiming to be a model. They have no respect or idea what it takes to model - even on a local level. Modeling is hard work. Just like every occupation, you have to pay your dues and many of these new models types just can't be bothered. It shows in their work, their images, and how they conduct themselves. Common courtesy is completely lost on many of these so-called models as well. It's really a shame because there are a lot of strong, committed models on the local scene - but these "flakes" as they're known in the industry are tainting the good models in the area.
So I go back and forth. If I ever stopped photographing models, I would most likely just stop period. I wouldn't move to landscapes, animals, or event photography.
5. Speaking of models, is there anyone you have a close working relationship with? Anyone in particular that works well with your artistic vision? If so, what do you think is the success behind that working relationship?
Oh wow - this is where I could get in trouble (laughs). I mention a few favorite models over the years and someone who I didn't mention would be like "hey Mark, why didn't you mention me? Don't you think we did good work?" (laughs)
But, to answer your question, let's see. Off the top of my head - I would say Anna. She was the first model that I did repeat shoots with. She helped elevate my work (and I've told her as much) early on and if I had not met her, I don't know where my work would be today.
Another model would be Jade. She is a master artist of her own designs. Such a gifted person, not only as a model, but a designer, seamstress, makeup artist, wig master, goodness the list goes on and on and on. We have a great working relationship. While our personalities are different, we always (well, almost always) have the same vision for where we want a shoot to go - how to reach the goal. I will take one path, she will take another, but at the end, we end up where we wanted to go. It's absolutely a creative chemistry thing with Jade and I.
Gosh, there are so many talented models that I've been able to work with. Sarah E and Iona L both worked with me a few years back - both incredible figure models. Poses and poses for days on end. Ultimate professionals. I learned a lot working with both of them. They helped me step up my game.
Jenniffer also comes to mind. I don't think I've ever had such a creatively charged working relationship with any other model. It's hard to explain. As people, the shoots were "easy" to do. But creatively we were both such strong creative forces that when you put us together, it was like two magnets, you know? (laughs)
Man, just too many others to mention!
6. I’m sure there’s spec-nerds out there who may want to know - What kind of camera do you use?
I'm a self-taught photographer so the spec nerds are going to be disappointed. I think what may (or may not) surprise some people is that I don't use a SLR. My work has been done to the best of my ability with a mid level camera made by Fuji. So if you want to talk specs, lenses, and all that, I'm the wrong guy. Sorry!
7. From a strictly professional standpoint, Seattle is a fairly small city to work in for any artist. Not that that’s a bad thing exactly, but we aren’t exactly NYC or LA either. Have you ever considered moving to a large city to gain more high-profile or lucrative opportunities, or is that something that has even interested you at any point in your career?
Interesting question. I was born and raised here in Seattle. I love it here and I will always consider it my home. But, for the right opportunity, I would explore other avenues or cities. Photography is something I have a passion for - to release my artistic energy. But it's not something I view as a business per se. So, the idea of moving somewhere else to further my career doesn't appeal to me. But, again, if someone liked my work enough to offer me an opportunity elsewhere, I would absolutely consider it.
8. Are you working on any major projects at the moment? Anything coming up that you are excited about working on?
I am currently working on my first series. It's called "All Through The Years". It is a series that reconnects me with the models I've worked with over the years. I've been fortunate enough that I must have done something right since the beginning of my career, that when I ask models who have since retired to work with me again, they in most cases have said yes. That makes me feel good - that they had a good experience(s) working with me and think enough of me to come out of "retirement" and get in front of the camera one more time.
Granted some models I'm still working with but others I haven't worked with in years - in some cases were talking four or five years! In modeling years that's like eight or ten! (laughs).
So far I've done three of these shoots and they've all been fun! I'm trying to get at least one model from each year that I've worked - starting with 2005.
9. That’s all I got. Thanks for your time, Mark. Any closing thoughts?
Thank you for taking an interest in my work. I really appreciate it!