We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art Producer: I nominate Mark Lund
How many years have you been in business?
I’ve been shooting professionally for 15 years. I started in San Francisco shooting home brands like Pottery Barn and Design Within Reach then moved to New York expanding on the “home” idea shooting family situations for editorial and advertising clients. I’ve always been interested in the idea of “americana” and “home” and the evolving meanings we give those concepts. Over the years it’s given me the opportunity to shoot for a lot of the big brands in the U.S. whose advertising by default represent american culture. As a culture we’ve moved on from Norman Rockwell americana but we still feel connected to that world. Like it or not, electronics and gadgets are a big part of most peoples lives now – our society is obsessed with electronic devices like the iPhone. I love finding visual ways to redefine contemporary americana – creating a visual “mash-up” where Norman Rockwell meets the Jetsons.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
At University of Wisconsin-Madison I majored in both engineering and fine art but strangely never took any photography classes. In hindsight all of the math and science fed the technical side of photo while classical drawing, painting and printmaking fed the creative.
As a teenager I always had a camera in my hand. My family moved to a new house when I was starting high school and I set up a darkroom in the basement and read a bunch of how-to photo books to teach myself how to print. Honestly, in the beginning I was mostly just interested in taking pictures of pretty girls but then I realized if I could master color printing I could make fake-IDs for myself and my friends. My mom couldn’t figure out why I was suddenly spending so many hours in my darkroom. I made a couple lame fake IDs before she busted me, but through the process I became pretty good at color printmaking. The next summer I used my new skills to get a job at a one-hour print lab where I worked for a couple years, then in college I got a part-time job at the local pro photo shop where I got to tinker with all of the newest camera technology and also met professional photographers.
My sophomore year a photographer came into the store looking for an assistant to work with him shooting a fashion catalog for Harley Davidson. It was a three-week job with minimal pay and I was a full-time student and it was right before final exams but it meant getting to work on a fashion shoot in California. Of course I leapt at the opportunity. We shot up and down Highway One at a bunch of amazing locations and I got to make film runs to the lab on a brand new Harley – the whole experience had me hooked.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
I’ve always been looking at what other photographers and directors are doing in both the fine art and the commercial worlds. I just finished three days of judging for the Society of Publication Designers’ 2013 Magazine of the Year awards where I got to review some amazing work. It was a fascinating experience looking at the micro and macro world of brand and photography.
I assisted a few different photographers in San Francisco when I was first out of school in the 90s and picked up different techniques and ideas from each. Shaun Sullivan taught me a ton about lighting. He had an easy demeanor and infinite patience and made really complex lighting look really easy. Stan Musilek taught me a lot about the business side of photography – managing a big crew and juggling a lot of projects at once.
How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
I’m lucky I get to shoot a lot of different types of work. Half of my work is studio tabletop and food and the other half is environmental lifestyle shot on location. In smaller markets there are a lot of photographer’s who work this way out of necessity but it’s pretty unusual for New York. The industry demands specialization and once clients get to know you as one type of photographer they are reluctant to see you in any other way. The challenge for visual artists is that once you’ve been pegged, you’re stuck. A photographer who shoots jewelry and just jewelry will inevitably get really good at shooting jewelry. He’s going to dial in his lighting and master composition and figure out all of the tricks for making amazing jewelry pictures. But if that’s all he does year in and year out, same thing every day, he’s going to get set in his ways and it will become more and more difficult to see things in a “different light”. It’s a dilemma faced by almost all visual artists.
I’m constantly shooting and I find that the two styles inform each other and keep me fresh. The lighting I use shooting a food story one day might give me an idea the next day for how to light a living room full of people. Photographing kids running around a backyard in Malibu with gorgeous morning light streaming through the trees can plant a seed for me to try a different approach lighting washers and dryers on a studio set the following week.
I still have my own “look” for all of the work I shoot which definitely helps me land jobs where often there’s a range of visual content needed to illustrate one story or one ad.
And of course I shoot a ton of personal work. I have a couple on-going projects that a lot of creatives tell me they are fans of – all of this helps to keep me on the radar.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
A lot of my work involves some complicated productions – big set builds or location scouting for specific room styles in homes and then huge talent castings, etc. Working collaboratively with clients / art directors / photo editors keeping a bunch of plates in the air can be challenging. I really enjoy all of the aspects of these productions and if we get into areas that are new to a client I’m always happy to help buyer educate client as needed.
On set we always design our productions to run efficiently, but there’s often still an urge on the client side to want more and more content, especially with kids. I’m a parent with two kids of my own and am often complimented on the great rapport I have with kids on-set. Realistic expectations for a bit of time required to get a young kid warmed up on set are important and managing client expectations by finding the right balance is key to making great images.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I believe in momentum so I’m always shooting – it’s essential to staying relevant. I shoot a couple of my own projects every month that I share with clients and a few times each year I’ll do a reach-out via email but I always keep it personal.
My agency Bernstein & Andriulli has developed some great themed look books that they send out and they also do a big printed journal once or twice a year which they mail to thousands of industry creatives. We also do LeBook every year in New York and L.A.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
I think most art buyers are pretty well informed so are looking for something new and different. If you look to other media – what are trends in the art world, what are visual trends on primetime TV or in other popular programming, what is big in movies or in other genres of photography. If you can wrap your head around a new aesthetic, process it and then figure out a personal way to express it in your own work – that’s going to resonate with everyone who sees your work.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
For about a year and a half I’ve been working on a project about kids and their living room forts. It started as a personal project but evolved into a bigger concept where people started sending in pictures of their own kids’ living room forts. The website is called livingroomfort.com.
I had been shooting exquisitely designed interiors for years – typically these spaces are shown with everything in the room perfectly placed. I always thought it would be great to let a kid go wild building up a fort in the room and shoot it in context. It just seemed refreshing to show pictures of these decorator designed interiors with a hot mess of kid stuff piled up in the middle of the room.
I shot most of them with just one assistant or even just solo. We typically arranged something with the parents, often when the folks were off at work and the kids were home with a nanny. We would walk in with our camera and start a dialogue with the kids about forts and then do just one thing to the room – maybe flip their parents fancy sofa on it’s side and dump the pillows on the ground. The kids would sort of look at us in disbelief for a second but then quickly get on board and start dragging all of their stuff out of their room and piling it up in the fort. I could just suggest something like “you probably are going to need books to read in your fort, right?” and they would get a gleam in their eye and then make like 12 trips back and forth from their room with every one of their favorite books stacked in their arms. The same would go for stuffed animals, snacks, whatever. Depending on the age of the kids we helped them with something tricky like tying a knot in a curtain, but the older kids would run with it and do it entirely on their own.
Every kid loves this kind of thing – it’s like it’s programmed into their genetic makeup. A self-made fort is like the ultimate expression of “home” for a kid.
They rig together some kind of private space out of blankets or couch cushions or whatever and surround themselves with all of their most precious things, then hunker down and fantasize about being an astronaut or a truck driver or something. We would lock a camera down and just shoot the chaos, usually choosing something in the middle as a final image, since the end result was always way over the top. We even turned a few of them into stop motion videos to show the process. I think some of the families thought I was a bit crazy but they went along with it. The kids always had a blast and would beg their parents to let them keep it up forever.
We’ve been in discussion with a couple organizations about doing a gallery event with big prints of the final series, maybe even with a big kid fort in the middle of the room. We’ll see what comes but with the right kid sponsor we would love to turn it into a charity event.
How often are you shooting new work?
I’m a photographer. I shoot every day of my life.
Mark’s bio and contact:
Mark Lund’s formally composed modern interiors are regularly featured in home lifestyle stories for Real Simple, Glamour, and InStyle. With a knack for problem solving that has evolved from his education in structural engineering and fine art, he continues to create compelling images for clients. Mark’s website can be viewed at www.lundphoto.com.
Mark is also the director of photography for Homeroom Studio in New York, leading a staff of associate photographers and producers that take pride in approaching each new project with efficiency and professionalism. Please visit www.homeroomstudio.com for more information.
Mark lives in New York with his wife and daughter.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.