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Photographing 100 Countries

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Photographing 100 Countries with Mark Edward Harris

Mark Edward Harris, Kenna Klosterman

Photographing 100 Countries

Mark Edward Harris, Kenna Klosterman

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1. Photographing 100 Countries with Mark Edward Harris


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Photographing 100 Countries with Mark Edward Harris

Hello, everyone. And welcome to create a Bligh. Welcome to Creative Live TV. I am your host, Ken Klosterman, coming to you from my home to yours. I am here north of Seattle at a place called Would be Island and super excited today to bring you behind the scenes. And what we're gonna do is we're going to record a live version of our We are photographers podcast with Mr Mark Edward Harris and eso before we dive straight into the podcast, which is normally an audio Onley podcast. But now that we have launched our creative live TV, um, we are bringing those interviews to you Live is sort of the uncut raw version for what will then be the audio only version. So for starters, if you are tuning in on our Facebook feed on YouTube, on Twitter or directly on creativelive dot com slash tv, I invite you to join the chat. You just click on the joint chat icon. If you're incredible dot com slash tv and let me know where you're tuning in from. We love to give all of those shadows. Of course, um we ar...

e like I said, very excited to have Mr Mark Edward Harris. Mark has traveled to over 100 countries, so I want to see how many countries out there are tuning in right now. At the moment, Mark is a photographer. He's done work that has spanned from editorial to travel to commercial work. He's been probably published in every photography magazine out there, including National Geographic Traveler, Vanity Fair Life, New York Times and I could Go On and on and on. He has an incredible career. He's won numerous awards from Clio Awards for his commercial work Thio I p A Awards. He is an author of many books, all of which were going to about to find out more about so very excited to bring on Mr Mark Edward Harris. Mark, Thank you for being here. Thank you, Ken. I got confused for second when you said we're very excited toe have I thought actually, you're having somebody else, but I'll take it. Thank you. I appreciate that introduction first of Yeah, First of all, I just wanna, you know, say, shout out to you. And I hope that you your loved ones are doing well. Um and we are recording right now during these quarantine times And of course, um, connecting here from my home to yours. And you're based in Los Angeles, right? Yeah, I'm based in l. A. And, uh, typically, I'm gone half the year, and so this is very unusual for me. I I cannot remember the last time that I had this long of a stretch here, but, uh, I think I'm making good use of it. I'm doing things that I wouldn't normally do. I'm really taking a look at L. A with a camera and, um, doing a lot of edits and catching up with writing, which I wouldn't do enough Set up a home studio here. I've got a now an ambassador for Stella Lights. And so I figured I'd better really know the lights more than the students. And so I've been working at it, so move out of the way just for a second. And so there's a couple of setups And so, you know, I've always believed that, you know, one door closes and another one opens. This is an incredibly huge door, you know, like the door of a fortification of ah castle that's closed on all of us. But but you know things. If we use things, you know, time the right way, we can. I've always believed, you know, try to turn a negative into a positive. And of course, there's families that have lost people during this time and people that air really ill. It's a serious time, but But I do think for the masses we could we could learn from this for sure. Well, I think I appreciate that sentiment, because I we've been having a lot of people here on credit. Live tv. Um, come on and talk sort of during these times, uh, and it is It's this balance of, um, of having empathy for everything that's happening and all the horrible things that are happening. And then, as in life in general, trying to find those silver linings Azaz Well, so having and having compassion for ourselves and everybody all around the world. Um so, Well, let's start talking about you and your photography. I The first thing I wanted to talk about is this. Okay, so orange tanks, everybody, Right now, if you are on your computer watching this or on your phone wherever you are, go thio instagram and check out Mark Edward Harris photo, and you'll see the images that some of the things that we're gonna be talking about. But you have the cover of outdoor photographer magazine with an amazing image of an orangutan in Borneo. And so tell me about not only this cover, but just I want to hear the story of falling in love with or in maintains. And because you've been working a lot with them. Yeah, I mean, I can't say I've dated any, so I wouldn't fall in love. But what I really some close friends might be a better, safer way to say it. Uh, no. Ragged tags air. Incredible. You know, there's five great apes. And so sometimes when I do workshops, I do a test about a name. The five great apes, you know, And people get most of them, they say. Okay, uh, chimpanzees, Uh, and a Ranga Tang's, uh, but but but no. Bows is one that tends to slip by. That's not a word you hear so often in humans are as well. Uh, but I was in Indianapolis of all places, and that's where I really discovered orangutans, which you wouldn't expect. But at the International Orange Tank Center at the Indiana Zoo or Indianapolis Zoo. They do an incredible program there to to work with Orangutan's uh, and so a za part of the story I was doing on Indianapolis. I happened to be there at the opening of the center there and used the technique using, uh, strokes to overpower the ambient light. I did some Cem portrait's and then while I was doing one of them, all of a sudden, the orange tank signal to me to turn the camera around, which I know it sounds unbelievable and stuff, but he wanted to see the back. I mean, they have a very high cognitive sense, in fact, much higher than a lot of my friends, to be honest with you. But I turn the camera around on, showed the photo, and he sort of looked at it. And for those that think that's really questionable, there is a video on YouTube of a woman who had burns. I don't know if you've seen that one, and she actually the orangutan, uh, had her circle around and show the burn on her on her shoulder and her back, and so that can be tracked down eso their their awareness of things. They're they're compassion. Seeming compassion was just really something. So I shot that. Got a good reaction to those photos, started going to other places in the States and then in Singapore, Japan, where they had a range of tanks in places I could shoot using some lighting techniques on. Then, because of that, that Siri's winning some awards, I was asked to go to Borneo to help out with you born in the Bornean Orangutan Survival Foundation, which do, And so that photo on the cover of of Outdoor Photographer, which is coming up very soon, uh is a shot from that first trip have been back since to Borneo, to the Malaysian side that was on the Indonesian side and to see them in the wild and then to also work with them when they were being, uh, cared for so they could be returned to the wild. It was really an incredible, um, experience. I mean, one of the experiences when I was working with ones that have that lost their their parents were particularly their mom. They don't really hang out with their dads there. Dancer to go their own way, but with their mothers, they tend to be with them from 7 to 9 up to 79 years. But they lose them because of deforestation, and sometimes the mothers were killed. And so we have all these orphans. They're being raised, hopefully to go into the wild either for the first time or be reintroduced. Uh, and so that whole thing really just struck a nerve. And so I started doing my homework, reading books, going back and shooting it. So I expect that to be one of my next book projects to hopefully bring awareness to, uh, what's going on with deforestation. The palm oil issues. It's not as black and white is palm oil is bad. This is that because palm oil is needed different types of oils or needed. If you don't use palm oil, use another oil that could be even more, uh, destructive to the environment. So there's a lot of issues people need to look into that instead of a blanket statement. But eso there's a long answer to a short question, but no, I mean, they're it's they're so beautiful. And I was curious about the difference in photographing them in the wild versus the portrait syriza again. Where it's there, like you're mean, full face. Like it's a human being The way that you connect with them in the eyes and seeing them into their soul and photo, you photograph humans and people as well. Uh, s So what? What are those similarities in the portrait experience? Well, we're fellow great apes and and we, uh So So the approach is roughly the same for the orangutans in captivity, captivity. They're much more aware of people and used to it, uh, to do that same thing. Uh, at at the boss at the Bornean Orangutan Survival Foundation. Uh, the ring tanks did their their own thing much more. We're not so cooperative. Necessarily unnecessarily. And also, I couldn't use strobes there, so I used some Stella lights, and I've now fall in love with these these these continuous lights rather than strobes. Uh, but the ones like for the cover of outdoor photographer that that's just with a long lens. I carried a 100. I have Nikon d eight fifties, mostly amusing, and I tried out the d seven, which is a great camera and so those were just reportage. Documentary shots of what's going on for the portrait carry a portable backdrop on. I do wait for that decisive moment when there's eye contact when it seems to portray, uh, something when there's a connection and there really is, it would be fascinating. And someday maybe it will be the technology toe really know what's going on. There are cognitive studies going on at the Indianapolis Orangutan Center on they actually have games. We're playing tic tac toe and, uh, and recognition of objects. And they'll beat us hands down any time. It's really an incredible thing. And so So you know, what's the key for, uh, actual communication back and forth? A true conversation. You know, uh, someday that will be unlocked, and that would be fascinating. E unbelievable. Can you imagine that? It hadn't really thought about it in that way before, because you know that, yes, they can do these certain tasks that show, you know, the cognitive understanding. But then toe actually have further conversations or such it will happen well in Northern California, you know, they had the the gorilla who's the fifth and not in that order. but the great ape. And, uh, there was communication back and forth there. Um, but yeah, it would really be amazing to see it a deep level. What what they would say. I mean, some of them might be bad. Might not be for the general audience to hear what they have to say about how animals have been, you know, treated. Yeah, but but yeah, the situation with ragged Tang's in a wild in Borneo, There's only two places in the world where Borneo's could still be seen in the wild, and that's Sumatra and Borneo. I just in January was in Australia after the bushfires and photographing there. And so I do take on, uh, issues with animals when it feels right or if it's assigned by a publication because they really don't have voices for themselves On dso e guess to us. Take us to Australia. What was that experience for you and can you tell us a story about, like you said, experiencing what happened? I mean two million's of animals, it was devastating. It was devastating and and I went to Kangaroo Island because I've always just like when I teach workshops, I talk about you can't just go to an editor and say, Oh, I'm going to do a story on France or I'm going to do a story on Germany or Japan or whatever. You have to get more in the more you get into a story just like I did a book on Japanese hot springs called The Way the Japanese Bath. I didn't do a story on Japan. It's too broad did a book on North Korea because it's so far off the radar that I could So So when it came to Australia, instead of just taking on Australia effect, you know of the wildfires, I picked an island that in particular had an issue. And that was Kangaroo Island on on Kangaroo Island. Um, they estimate up to 80 to 90% of the koalas were killed by the wildfires. And, um, to go through there, I walked down this one road, um, which I referred to as as the valley of Death. It was unbelievable. One animal after another that had been, um just, you know, burned to death by the the fires. They had no place to go. Um, you know, fires are bushfires are a part of the natural cycle of fires. But what happens is, uh, you know, through planting, you know, trees for for, you know, tree farms and affect other things and then trying to avoid fires. If they're not constantly cleared, things can build up. And then you get a catastrophic fire rather than the annual, you know, or every so often a smaller fire. And so But I did see amazing work being done at the Kangaroo, um, Island Nature Park. I believe it was called, but people really doing amazing amazing things. Volunteers working to save the animals that were being brought in and they were being cared for an incredible way. One of the amazing things about Kangaroo Island is about 100 years ago, they had sort of a Noah's Ark, where they brought, uh, koalas from the mainland to the island because they were being hunted for their pelts. And so they had them there. And then there was a huge chlamydia outbreak with with the koalas, but they didn't have it on Kangaroo Island. So all of a sudden you have this population that's pure. That doesn't have that in another medical issue. And so then they were trying to figure out a way is, Let's let's get some of these koalas now back to the mainland, but keep them in quarantine. So we'll always have a population of chlamydia free. Um, koalas, um, contraceptives or not an option evidently, but wow. Never thought about that either. Yeah, I think it's a really interesting point that you make about when you're approaching to tell a story at that. You you wanna tell something? Maybe that's you need to get to that niche of the story or certain angle of the story. Yet then, to tell sort of a universal or perhaps much bigger story through a small story. If that makes sense, eso go ahead. We don't know. You mean it makes perfect sense that that's exactly right. There are times just like Eve Arnold, who is a great photographer for Magnum photos. She, um, always, you know, she said, either you're overwhelmed with work or you're sitting around for the phone to ring. So she looked for long term projects to do to keep herself safe and which is good to this day. Toe have that approach. And so she did a book called In China because at that time China was not open to the West. And so she took something like that. Now you would not want to take on that For one photographer to take on China. It's just too diverse. It's too seen. So So when I did a book on Iran or I did a book on North Korea that's relatively not seen in the West And so But when I did a book on Japan, I picked something like, like Jodi Cobb for National Geographic did a great thing on Geisha and then but really went deep where she went first with the maiko, which are the the geisha in training, and it really went deep and went through that for my way of the Japanese bath Syria's. It was something that was so much of part of Japanese culture, but a little bit off the beaten path. Uh, in order to do that, I mean, my ex wife, still one of my best friends, is Japanese, and so that was very helpful, obviously, but I've worked very hard to learn Japanese on Because of that, I was able to get in and explain basically to people like you know doing this photo serious. Do you mind if I shoot? Because I wanted to shoot reality as I was seeing it and not say okay, pose, do this or that, Do this or that. And so I would have to sometimes explain, you know, why is this guy just walking around with a you know, a camera and a fundo She in a production. But Taniguchi Fudo she's sort of like the samurai and that samurai. But the sumo underwear, Not that. Not that I don't have that, but But the Pentagon is a towel, and so So they're absolutely stunning. So many, you know, black and white images, Uh, and sort of this combination of humans with the natural landscape that you can see through windows. And and And I did read you something. You said, Uh, that was there are few places on earth as magical as Japan. And so what is it about Japan to you? But what was it that drew you to that particular story? So much to our or concept. So much to publish a book with the best, uh, first and maybe growing up. You know, I grew up in in Tiburon and my dad worked for KCBS. And so that's up in the Bay Area. And, you know, so we're exposed to a lot of Asian culture. We used to go to Chinatown all the time for dinner, you know, into, you know, Thio Park, Japan, where there was a tea house for maybe that had an effect on May. I did martial arts growing up, and to this day, it's still part of me s. So I think, the whole Asian culture and also living in L. A. Of course we have that, you know, so that that might be part of it. But I love the aesthetic. I love the discipline. Uh, and but then in the early nineties, I went to Beppu, which is on the southern island of Kyushu, a very famous town for for hot springs. And I was just fortuitous. That was not really planning. A friend of mine said, Oh, we should go, you know, for the hot springs. I said, okay. And then I did some photos there, and I just fell in love with it, just just the you know, the different usages of natural hot spring water. I mean, it's sort of like golf courses. Every single golf course is different, and so every single bath is different. And the way that they present the water sometimes with the cascade bath. Often it's in nature. I mean, the most magical thing is toe have, uh, being a hot spring with a view with the Winter review with snow. Um, that is really something to dio. And then in Japan, you're actually allowed to drink sake in in hot springs. And so there's something called you Kimmy Zaki, which is which is snow viewing while drinking sake. That's a great combination. So we're here if you take, you know, liquor into ah, hot tub here, you get kicked out. If you don't bring it in there, you get kicked out. So the little little difference there, but it's so visually stunning, uh, and the steam And that's also another thing. Why I particularly like to shoot hot springs in winter is the steam hitting the cold air. Uh, creates this amazing surrealistic vapor. Uh, that is stunning. And I think the Japanese awareness, you know, you know, they talk about wabi, sabi and all that sort of thing. You know, the appreciation of the passage of time and that its effect on on things, uh, is really a magnificent And they really do have it down, literally to an art. So excuse me s so true. And it just everything about that syriza's just is really beautiful. Appreciate. So yeah, well, I want go ahead. Oh, it has been going on for many years. So that first started in 1992. The first book came out, I think, around 2003, then the second edition, 2000 and nine. The latest one just came out a couple of months ago, and they have it to Amazon. So there's a shameless plug. Um, but it it's eso I keep adding to it, but I continue even though now I'm using digital cameras, I'm still converting it to black and white. There is something, you know, black and white, just by its very nature makes something surreal. And then if the imagery you're creating with it is already surreal, then it really takes it to another another place. So now I'm because I'm very curious as to talk about North Korea because, like you said, there are not many bodies of work out there necessarily. Or people have spent a lot of time. And so tell us about how you approach this project. Just tell us all. Well, you know, I tend to, uh, not try to see things as black and white, except for, you know, I'm shooting the bath or something else literally in black and white. But but in terms of political things, I don't necessarily see things as good and bad, right and wrong. A lot of things. You know, there are cases like that, but but most things you know are variations that not everything is all bad. Not everything's all good. Uh, and so there's a lot of complications, of course, with North Korea, and it's a totally in totalitarian regime and all that, but we have to look at how we got there in the first place. We just can't say, Oh, they're bad there. The Hermit kingdom, whatever. Well, first of all, the whole peninsula was the Hermit kingdom. It was not, uh, just North Korea. I mean, North Korea was not an entity until after the Second World War, when it was divided between, you know, Russia and the Allies risk of the allies. And so we have to look at the big picture. How did we get there in the first place? And it was the opium wars in neighboring China in the 18 hundreds that got the Korean Peninsula to say, Hey, we don't want a part of that. And then, you know, we we pried the doors open way Saw what happened. Obviously, same thing in Japan, you know, You know, in late 18 hundreds, you know, Commodore Perry prying the doors open on. So that's where the root started. And then, uh, you know, about 1917, Japan was colonized on, annexed by the Japanese. And then, uh, you know, instead of Koreans immediately getting their country back in 1945 at the end of World War Two, Uh, it was divided up into zones of occupation, which, unfortunately then solidified and the Cold War was basically fought. It turned into a hot war 1952 53 s. So we have to see, uh, so that that's why, uh and my bachelors in history, my masters is a combination of history and other things, and so so a lot of the stories I do, just like with Korea. I try to see things in that bigger picture. It's not like, Oh, how did this guy get there? Well, I think I have a fairly decent idea of how we got there and the wise and I want to get not justifying it. Because sometimes when somebody hears if there's anything good about that place, so well, you know, just like when when pretty Sanders said that that Cuba has, you know, a good school systems like, Oh, how can they, you know, or China or has whatever doesn't mean I wanna live there doesn't mean, you know, but But I think we have to look at the bigger picture to really find solutions. Um, and people are people are people, and people are you have to distinguish between a government and humans who have become in a certain place, yeah, without intention, necessarily. And and humans are humans. So what did you learn about humanity through the people you interacted with in North Korea? Can't, right? That's exactly right. Humans and humans. And that's what I tend to look for his daily life no matter where we are, and people do try to get the most out of daily life, no matter what situation it's in. And so in Korea it's the same thing. And one of the surprising things is just how much more aware of the outside they are than we give them credit for. One of the reasons is because when the Soviet Union broke up and it just became Russia and it became, you know, very entrepreneurial and commercial, they never turned off the TV S channels because they have very limited access to the outside world in terms of TV and all that. And so they still they see commercials coming in from Russia. E went to International Film Festival didn't have US films, but they had British films like the Chinese films, Indian films, Russian films And so they see the outside world. They know what they have issues, so they're much more aware. But But you see kids walking to school laughing, uh, not being afraid to walk on the streets as if anything's gonna happen to them. And we're talking about now. 10 trips for me there to seven of the nine provinces, and I believe there's nine there, So I've been throughout the country, not everything. Stage for me. Sometimes people say, Oh, that must be stage. You must know you're coming. Well, okay, so here's, you know, eight foreigners going through the country you can't stage. You know, maybe Pyongyang is the show, uh, city, and that's true. But the daily life we see on a daily basis now, there are many frustrations in terms of shooting because really, your guides air task. We're basically taking you from from one statue to another one memorial to another, and you're seeing all these amazing things along the way. You know, they don't want you to photograph poverty and all that, but the more they get to know you and, um or, uh, they feel comfortable that you're just not out to get them, the more relaxed you can, um, you know, become and then you Then you start getting the images that you really you don't want to get to give to give the bigger picture to tell the bigger story. And I think from those 10, uh, trips at two books, the second one being just the North Korea book. Which one? I pay Book of the Year very quickly. Uh, big plug there for the for the book. But that's that. That's something that I really feel, um, strongly about. And I think that a lot of wars, you know, happen and violence because because we have this US and them mentality and for whatever reason, you know, even though I'm a huge sports person that played sports all my life, I really enjoy the game and not the winning, particularly so I don't feel this need to say, Hey, we're number one or or this or that and I think that instinctive. In fact, there's an amazing book I would recommend to people, um called The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant, which is a very short book. But it really sort of sums up, I think, the big picture of humanity and the human condition tell me more. What did you Well, one of things about the book they talk about in the 5000 years of written human history. Uh, there's only been a handful of years where there was no war, so they concluded that this is how men, um, and that could stand for men and women. But it does tend to be more men. Uh, you know, settle conflict. And so, fortunately, now we do have sports and other ways to to sort of vent that very deep human, uh, nature in a more positive way. But then when when you see you know people getting the fight's over like you know somebody's wearing, you know, the Denver Broncos color, you know, when you want to get into a fight over that Well, that's pretty sad, but that is that same base that that creates, you know, wars and things that that need for that that tribal thing. And so I think we have to be careful about, um, that too much, just like yes, celebrate your team. You know? Have you know, You know, I like the Dodgers. I grew up a Dodger fan, but you know, as long as you know, if another team wins the World Series, that's fine. I mean, as long as it's not the Giants, obviously, But I'm talking about that. I love the Giants. So are you dropping? Dropping these names in for our production team here? Creativelive? Well, I don't know, because one of them was wearing a ST Louis, uh, out lives in Washington. I'm not getting that I mean, I need to see a sea hawks, you know, or a Mariners cap the next time around. I that didn't go unnoticed. Z no, but you know, it's a competition. That's great. Let's let's let's enjoy the competition, you know, and not the winning or losing if everybody does the best they can. Whether that's great, that's what it's all about. And that's the one thing that I grew up with. A father with polio who had a very severe case of polio. He actually passed away last year, but had an amazing life, that he was amazing long life. And I really learned so much from him, just incredible how to live life. Eso no keep going. I was going to say, I mean, this is a time right now is we're talking where it's a very challenging time for everyone. And yet a lot of times through adversity, people grow stronger and all that. So for your father toe live that long of a life with polio. What did you learn from him? Well, if you grow up in a family and this, I think, goes from our brothers, well, there was never an excuse. Is not that we had any, but you just do the best you can. It was just automatic. It's like, Oh, I couldn't do this because because whatever follows that, because doesn't really mean very much. And if it's a serious enough situation, it follows within. Everybody knows that anyway. But if you couldn't do this because you know, you dropped your hard drive, you did this. You did that, you know your dog needed to walk and, you know, whatever those excuses don't mean much. And then in the professional world, is a professional photographer. If you don't come back with a shot or I couldn't get it because a famous photo editor a some of the audience might no. But said, um, National Geographic. We published pictures, not excuses, and that is 100% true. And I think that goes, obviously that could be applied to any sort of work or anything. Just do the job, do the best you can if there's a serious situation. People who understand that, but just be honest but the main and so that's one of the key things I learned from my father for sure is that on also have a sense of humor at the same time. I mean, things do happen and people understand people tend to be compassionate. I mean, you know, we all have our own issues and our own Achilles heel. And if you let people know, it's like, Okay, well, try toe work with you, you know, with that. And and so but But really and maybe once again, maybe that's one thing I really enjoy about Asian. Particularly as I love that, you know, work ethic. And and so So it's probably comes full circle in in that way for sure. E I read something that, um you wrote If you always succeed, you're not trying hard enough. Thank you. E thought on instagram. Okay, Thank you. E s o strong belief in that that it takes our our failures quote unquote failures. Thio, push us forward beyond what we think we could Dio, can you tell us about a time when you didn't succeed? Maybe it was, uh, again. Not that there were excuses, but was there a story you were trying to get? It didn't work out or or just in life in general? Sure. Well, I mean, just just thio show another example of that sort of thing in a In a broader sense, when we're talking about sports like Barry Bonds could about 1000 if he wanted to stay down in a minor leagues. Or let's just play, you know, a college team his whole life or whatever, But, uh, you know, you go for the big leagues and you go for it. And so in photography, ah, 100% you'll get that, uh, coming up with ideas that don't work. I would say for my books, you know, trying to get publishers and and, you know, one passes for whatever reason, and so you could be defensive and say, Oh, you know, they have no taste that but, you know, that's that's that's, I think, an unfortunate way to take it. They have their own reasons. They have their own concerns. It probably took me, um, for my first book about other photographers. I don't know, maybe three or four, um, publishers until I got the right one. And so I simply accepted, Okay, They don't want to do it. For whatever reason, I mean, there were logistical things or economic things to get rights to other photographers that were going to be an ad. So that was a more complicated book. Um eso But yeah, all the time. I mean, the Norman Photography's You're showing your portfolio around. Sometimes you get a job, sometimes you're up for it. Sometimes your your second or this or that. But but people choosing the photos have their reasons. Um, eso there's probably too many e don't know if one really sticks out other than that book, and you remember that. But I think there's too many to listen. But what you do is you simply say, And if you get feedback if somebody says, Oh, we're not using this because, well, maybe listen to that Because and you can you can use that, Uh, eso there is sometimes, you know, a time. We're like, Hey, maybe this really isn't working and you have to move on. But a lot of the time it's like, Okay, wait a second. Uh, maybe this wasn't a good fit. I have to try this publication or this publication this publication, and if you really believe in the project, normally you'll find a good home for it. What I love about what you're just talking about it makes me think that also, you can't really take a lot of things personally, which is a which is a daily struggle for me, I think. But But in that sense of you're talking about how Okay, maybe it wasn't this particular project wasn't right for that particular editor for that magazine at that moment in the crime. But it doesn't mean that it's not gonna be right for somebody else. And I feel like when we just get one, no. And then we shut down that that's again, where you're not gonna completely succeed and what you're trying todo I'm curious for you because you have had such an incredible career. What does success mean to you today? And is it is it different than what it meant to you when you first started photography? You're asking It's such an interesting time. And, boy, I'm some of your friends. I mean, Michelle Goldberg, who introduced us, who's such a great photographer, I think I'm sure she's going through and everybody else and this is and and people working in the travel world, which obviously I tend to do a lot to voice success. Now that's interesting, because I mean, so many of my workshops of cancel living the next one we have. Can I say for sure? I don't know, but is to Bhutan at the end of September, beginning of October. Everything until then it is pretty much canceled. So So But I don't necessarily look for outward things too, to say, Okay, you're successful because you got this. Um I mean, I definitely feel good that that that, you know, Now I've got eight books out. So those air tangible things, uh, I think one of the keys, The one thing you don't want is to say I wish I did this. I wish I did that. And so I really consciously, uh, avoid that by actually doing things because it z really the things you don't do you regret, for the most part, you know? So, uh, I think success so far is living a life where have basically gone for it. And I do ask myself the question which, actually I think it's my mother who gave me this question to ask in the first place is will you regret it if you don't do it? And so most of the time, the answer is yes. Eso you go for it. I mean, there were times, you know, I went I did a story, um, in Iraq a couple of years ago, and I didn't tell anybody I was going because I didn't want to hear why I shouldn't want to go on. It was a fascinating experience. Can you share a story from that experience that was that was unique or or unexpected? Yeah. Uh, it was It was for the New York Times. They were doing something on Was it safe to travel to the Kurdish region of Iraq? And it really was. I got into one dicey, um, thing into hook in a mall where maybe it was shooting a photo I shouldn't have shot. And people started getting It was pretty intense. And we had a amazing security team that reacted so fast and didn't overreact. It was incredibly impressive, but But really, it was there again, people just trying to go about their lives doing the best they could during stressful circumstances. We were there when Mosul was being bond, which he actually did see from. Ah, high precipice. Um, but what? It's always the same. It's so You know, common people are just trying to do the best they can. They want to take care of the kids. They want to be proud of their kids. They want to see them do, well, a homework. You know, the first thing is, you got to put food on the table, right? So that's always the first concern. But once you get past that, people are not, you know, you know, sitting down constantly, you know, looking at the geopolitical map. And, oh, we got to do this or that. They're looking about, you know, how did their kids do today at school? Um and so, yeah, we did go up to one of Hussein's palaces, has been bombed out. You know, toe walk through there and think about the history that had just happened there to drive to about 17 kilometers from Mosul, you know, and seeing you know what was going on there. And, um, but throughout the country, uh, mhm. Just just just, you know, the peshmerga. They're very impressive people. And we got Thio Beat them there. I mean, there s o that was, uh, something, you know? I mean, even in l. A right Now, you know, I'm doing this naked Hollywood, um, photo essay, which which, because, you know, you are from down here you noticed one of the images from pinks, which is closed up right now. And I waited for the extra element of a woman walking through carrying a bunch of toilet paper and wearing a mask. Um, so So? So you can whether it's Iraq or L A or anywhere else. There's always stories to be told, but I do think you have to have a combination of an active mind, and then no mind to use this sort of meditative thing, you have to have both at the same time. And I think that, um, my ex wife never accused me of thinking too much. And so I think I got that first part down. Very well, actually. She's amazing. I got to say that back in Japan, she's a tea master. Anybody goes to Japan, send me an email. You've got to take her workshop. Shameless plug. I will take you up on that because I think every day, by the way, because of that, she makes the most amazing green tea. I start every morning with much of powder. And I feel great so that that's actually you know, and I'm doing Gang. So what am I doing now? Because we talked about this earlier during this period. You know, I go to the gym every day when I'm in l A. But of course, that closed up because of this and so fortuitously And you never know really how things happen exactly. But I put it out into the universe. I got these DVDs on Qi Gong and Tai Chee and I have done type two years ago, but I had done Qi Gong. And now every morning I start the day besides this banana green tea shake, I do Qi Gong, which is this incredible, you know, movement. Siri's that's similar to tie ci every single day. I mean, we've got to keep ourselves physically and mentally active. It's amazing what you're doing. And so many other people are doing online now with classes. I'm an active participant in them. I'm doing six days a week for Japanese to China to Mandarin language studies one on one. I'm doing the lighting here with Stella Lights in the studio, so I think there's so much you can, uh, you could do and turn a negative into a positive. You know, obviously there's huge economic concerns, and I'm part of that for sure. But I think we can. You know, the one thing we all have is time, and when it's gone, it's gone. And so I don't think this is a time to sit around and just wait for this to be over. I think it's a time to use to, to explore and use the time as best we can. I think that there's so many interesting things about time right now that were all experiencing because, like you are describing earlier what it means to be fully present and when you're photographing or you're looking Thio be in the zone to tell stories and what have you And right now, people don't know what day of the week it is. You don't know what time of day it is, and so time has become this very fluid, odd thing, and that reminds us that we've kind of constructed what time means to us as a culture. And so there is so much going back to, you know, with with the practice of King Kong or meditation or all these things of getting you to presence, Which that is the being that just having an experience. So what does Xi Gong do for you from a physical, emotional, um, neurological standpoint? Well, I and you said it so right on, because I really do have ah problem. You know, savannas with anxiety and being, you know, out there sort of in the clouds a little bit. And I think it helps grounds me. Just like I love golf. Golf is active meditation. Same thing, you know, hiking. I love getting out. You know, I think one of the weird things about being in North Korea is I feel so present when I'm there. I kind of like being in what other people consider somewhat stressful situations because it feels like, Well, that's more the norm for May, you know, And because it's that baseline anxiety that you know, other people would happen. I'm normally there, and but and I do I know she gone. I don't think I know that that it's giving me. First of all, it's so much more than just, you know, getting a good strict stress and getting the CI to flow through your body and all that sort of stuff. But it's it's just really, you know, grounding may, uh, and and it's It's something you could do at home in a very, very small space and I But I think we all confined. You know, things like that. I think the one thing we can't do and a lot of people dio is sit there and watch the news all the time. You know, to watch, you know, the town hall on coronavirus. Yes, we do have to be aware of what's going on, and and I'm acutely aware that and we have to play by the rules. I think it's amazing what California I know. California is not teaming up with your state and Oregon. Um, you know, we have to listen to the governors and say, You know, stay at home. We pay a bit of a price now on, we'll get a much bigger payoff later, and so so. But when we're at home, when we're doing things, I think we can can really focus in on things we need to do and like there's other you know, obviously, you know, Creative life has so many amazing classes. There's places like Coursera, other places. This could be a really a time for growth. Andi, Um, it's very exciting. I mean, just what's again? Unfortunately, the one thing that we have to really all be concerned about is the economics of it. But But this will pass. Everything else does. It's amazing to look back in history to see you know what happened. 1917, 18 with a pandemic there. I mean, look at the tools they had then are nothing compared to now, but yet they were able to pretty much track it to see who was doing what. I then took the opportunity to look a Typhoid Mary to see what happened to her. And she wasn't part of, you know, that was a typhoon break out. That wasn't You know what? They had the Spanish flu. But but, uh, to look how they tracked her down and how she interface, I think with 51 people, she got infected. I mean, look at the tools they had Then we have the most amazing tools in the world. Now to thio figure out you know what's going on, so we will get through this for sure, as long as we all cooperate. And that's the one thing I see when I go out and I shoot is the amazing cooperation. It's unbelievable that, you see, I drive a blue Bria. I see people staying. Six fart 66 Well, it's a bad 46 ft apart at at at Trader Joe's. I mean, that's incredible that people really are taking it upon themselves to be part of the solution. I mean that that's amazing. And that's so impressive. But then, of course, I'm also focusing on the homeless people, you know, and and they don't have much of a choice. So we have serious issues. And Governor Newsome today was talking about that, that we can't just get back to status quo. Once we get past this, we gotta learn from this and figure out How could we make a better situation? You know, out of this, and and one of the things I do wanna not to get too political or whatever, But, you know, many years ago, a lot of the mental institutions were closed down on and putting people on the street. I don't think that's doing anybody any good. I think we should revisit that people need to be housed properly and taken care of. Sleeping under overpasses is not a solution. Um, you know, they got freedom so they could sleep under over. Pass. Well, the people I have seen in the last couple of weeks doing this Siri's needs some serious intervention. It's just beyond belief. Uh, and and if listeners aren't familiar with Los Angeles, has one of the largest homeless populations. Um, and of course, right. A lot of, uh, being people experiencing homelessness is not a a clear issue. I mean, there's so many issues involved, like you said, in terms of mental health and addiction and things and just situational e um, I've spoken. I've had people on the podcast who were previously homeless, and it's any of us could get there, and you don't realize that. And until it's times like now, where I think so many people are with another economic crisis, but so many people are realizing it's kind of equalizing a number of things, not everything, but we're experiencing things that we didn't think we would I for sure for sure. And and these people are really skidded to the to the very bottom, for sure. But what's interesting about Hollywood why I'm choosing Hollywood is because usually they're cloaked with all the tourists coming in and overrun. But now you know that they've disappeared. That's all you have left. You have Baron Streets and these people that are just in such desperate need Now. Now, people, of course. You know, it's a complicated things. Some people after you know, they're because of not taking personal responsibility, others because, you know, things have just slipped out of hand on then. Others have serious mental issues. And then, of course it you know, drugs. And so all of this and so I don't have the number 80. You probably your your listeners would know more than me. But I think there's an something 1000 now in saying or San Francisco, you know, do you just give people a bunch of tents and here go sleep, you know, out on the streets. Is that a solution? I don't I don't think so. But I do think the people that are in power now this I was not particularly aware of our governor at all. Governor Newsome or our our mayor here in L. A and the one in San Francisco. I can't speak about the mayor there, but I think that people in power now really, uh, California are really working hard. Thio do something. And so, um, maybe this is a call to arms for that as well, right? I mean, again, it's looking at a challenging situation as an opportunity. I do have a final question mark, and that is you. You Do you have a book? The travel photo essay describing a journey through images. So bringing it back around to photography people at home. Uh, this is a time when I know a lot of people are going through and calling images editing images that they may have put aside for a long time. So can you, through writing that book or what have you? Can you give people some tips about how you tell how you how you describe a journey through images? How do you take go through a body of work and create an actual sort of essay out of that versus stand alone images? Right. Well, I mean, if you take sort of, you know, just this is the Japanese book. If you take that from as as what I did with Japan is you Look, you delve in and you don't try to tell the whole big picture, Aziz Arnold said Within China, she had so much success with that she then tried to. The publisher said, Well, let's do the same thing in America and it was a disaster. According to her, uh, it was just too broad. People knew it too well when you had Robert Frank who did the Americans, but that was not trying to show every state, uh, for the book on the travel photo essay. Uh, I really break it down, and I say Location is not a story. And as I said, North Korea's in exception, you know, when I've Arnold did in China, but to really break down, and also, what do you know what's what's what What, what do you an expert at? Everybody has things that they're particularly good at. My friend, the local spices, amazing fashion photographer. But she was really struggling in Japan. She was an editor for magazines there, so she flew over to Paris and started working there. And so her combination of being such an expert in a fashion field. Uh, gave her an edge there. She also new design. Uh uh, Michelle Wahlberg, who I mentioned before her expertise on really knowing Canada and the indigenous people up there. Eso always look in before you look out. Actually, any labor would say the same thing to me. You don't have to run around the world to, uh, to find stories. They're really in our own backyard now. I tend Thio run around the world for stories happened Love that. But there are stories here and so this eso this This situation has given me an opportunity to practice what I preach and find something locally. But we can do it much closer to home. I mean, look through what you have, take images you on and make one off books. And there's an excellent company like blurb blu R B. There's also a and I lots of good books. Compile your images. In fact, I wish I could give homework to everybody out there, Do something on a recent trip you had, Or if you love cooking, do dio do a cookbook and those could be great, you know, presents for the holidays or whatever in other words. You don't have to leave your house to create these interesting books and you'll get it in the mail in a week or two. So I would highly recommend that. But But do be focused. Don't be too broad. That's really the key to a successful presentation of anything. Well, there you go, everyone. You do have your homework. You have homework, you know, on all great it I There you go. Speaking of that, where can people follow you? I want to make sure people can connect with you. Find your books, follow you on Instagram where sort of the central hubs people can go. Well, I'm a very late bloomer to Instagram, but I've learned to love it. And, uh, I was late because of doing a lot of work in Iran and North Korea. Um, but it's at Mark Edward Harris photo. So that's my instagram Mark Edward Harris photo. My my website is simply just my name. Mark Edward Harris dot com dot com is not part of my name, but I think you're listeners could figure that one out for sure. Uh and I do workshops, and so the workshops were also listed on my website and I love teaching. We do this photo floating photo floating workshop on river cruises, which we had one that was scheduled for end of March in Venice, Italy. That didn't happen. I couldn't have picked to worst things Italy and on a ship. But we're going to start that up again next year. I truly believe in them. I've done nine the most enjoyable things to do in the world. And and, um, we will get through this. And I think if we use the time, let's not waste four months off our lives just waiting for this to get over. Let's use the time. And there's so much We're so fortunate. I've thought about this before, Just like what we're doing. Just imagine what Three decades ago, we could not be doing what we're doing now. We're able to to to, you know, learned through, you know, the web do all these amazing, you know, classes and things. And so, you know, to say it's coming at a fortuitous time might be stretching it, but definitely we can use the tools. Uh, you know, I've learned so much. I mean, just, you know, hearing your uh, podcast the other day with some of my, you know, friends, talking photography. I learned a lot that I didn't know about them, and I've known them for years. So it just shows you, you know, just endless knowledge out there. There is endless knowledge out there and, like you said, when you can be intentional about seeking it out and dedicate that time to yourself, it's your it's your choice to do so. Beautiful sentiments. Thank you so much. Mark and I do want to give a shout out to Michelle Wahlberg, who introduced us. Thank you. She's watching listening right now as well. I said hello, but I just as a fellow traveler travel travel photographer I was in Bhutan a year ago. Yes, I mean incredible place, incredible people. And on DSO, I just really appreciate all the work that you've done, uh, to tell stories over your entire career. I mean, it's ah, lot of people here, like traveled to countries. How lucky. Like it's a lot of work, but also it's funny you should say that that would look, uh, I use the word fortunate. Luck is pure chance. I think we all worked too hard. Um, that's just luck. And winning the lottery might be luck. But But But you getting to Cuba and doing that great work you did there. You made that happen. Uh, you know, Michelle getting to, um, you know, towards the North Pole and all that she made that happen. Of course, we're fortunate. 100% fortunate. And I guess you could say lucky to, in a sense, but really, uh, think fortune. It's a better, you know, fit for sure. I see I have a great friend, Sachiko in Japan who's done so much, so much amazing work. I mean, she's in law, but But she was able to get herself around the world. She built up such a great thing that she was ableto expose her folks to the world. They hadn't traveled internationally. She took them to Switzerland to see the Alps. In other words, we create these things and there's so much more we can create to continue Thio create. It's just we're so fortunate to have those those opportunities. And then, of course, we have to help those that are less fortunate as well. And I think through teaching, I'm able Thio and through my photo essays. Just like with koalas and things you know, or the orangutan's, they don't have a voice, or at least one that we can understand at this point. So just to bring it full circle Beautiful. Well, thank you again so much, Mark and we I look forward to sharing the audio version of this podcast with the world for everyone in a few weeks. And again, if you are tuning in right now on creativelive dot com slash tv, check out the schedule of everything that we have coming up. We're coming to you from our homes, uh, to yours with the living rooms, kitchens, home studios of creators and entrepreneurs all around the globe to bring you insights during during these challenging times and entertainment. We've been having musical performances. Yesterday we had a celebrity hairstylist teaching people how to cut their hair or cut their hair, cut other people's hair at home because it's just something that the people need right now so you can see everything happening on creative life dot com slash tv, and then you can see all the past episodes. The 70 episodes of were photographers on our website were photographers dot com slash podcast or anywhere that you dio Listen, Thio your podcasts. So once again I'm going to sign off and say See you next time. But thank you again. Thio Mark Edward Harris. See you all soon. Thank you, Ken.

Class Description


Our weekly audio podcast We Are Photographers brings you true stories from behind the lens and behind the lives of your favorite photographers, filmmakers, and creative industry game-changers. From their struggles to their wins, host Kenna Klosterman discovers the real human stories about why they do what they do.

Listen to this and other audio episodes on our audio Podcast page.


In this episode, Mark takes you behind the scenes of his new Outdoor Photographer magazine cover image of orangutans in Borneo. Hear stories about Kangaroo Island after devastating fires in Australia. Explore the history of his Japan book, what he learned about humanity from 10 trips to North Korea, honing in on a particular story to tell about a place, developing long-term projects, and why Mark believes “If you always succeed, you’re not trying hard enough.”


Mark Edward Harris is an editorial, commercial, travel, and documentary photographer whose assignments have taken him to more than 100 countries on six continents. His editorial work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The London Sunday Times Travel Magazine as well as all the major photography magazines. Among his numerous accolades are CLIO, ACE, Aurora Gold, and IPA awards. His books include Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work, The Way of the Japanese Bath, Wanderlust, North Korea, South Korea, Inside Iran, and his latest The Travel Photo Essay: Describing A Journey Through Images.