Interview with Photographer Sara Mark
Sarah just graduated from seattle central community college photography program and I have to say this program at seattle central is unbelievably good I mean, it is so powerful and so polished and I just went to the show is a few nights ago and I felt like I was walking in one of the most powerful creative agencies I'd ever been they had decorated the place so it felt like a the offices of a gigantic, prosperous creative firm in a gigantic city bigger than seattle and and and the place was crowded with people looking to hire talent, which is fabulous and I ran into a bunch of people that I knew who were actually scouting, which was really cool and the work was all over the walls and it was design work and photography work an illustration work and it was it was spectacular and sarah uh uh, I was up there doing some portfolio reviews a few days prior to that and sara was one of the photographers who presented her portfolio to me and her work just captivated me in a very particular way an...
d I'm going to show I pulled some work off of her off of her website and I'm a graphic designer, so can you see that in this work? I mean, we're talking we're talking look, I saw these photographs and I'm like seeing logos and I'm seeing the power of a logo to make an impression the searing impression on your consciousness that's what I saw in in these photographs and so because of the iconic nature of those photos and the way sarah uh, put them together and I've never seen anything like before, you know, maybe it's been done? I don't know, I've just never seen it, but, uh, I asked sarah if she would come and talk about a little bit about how her, uh, how she got her early insights and how she began to discover that she was going to become a photographer, you know, what were those early moments in her life? And we've had a couple phone calls about that, and so I've asked her to talk about that. But then yesterday, sarah uh, sent me a siri's of images that when when when did you take them? The date on the back was ninety four, ninety five so it's, about four years old, four years old, thes air photographs taken once there was four. They're nothing of any distinguishable shape or anything whatsoever, but I was thoroughly excited to have created something that I had never seen before, and it just made me happy, and I wanted to continue to create more I clearly opened up the back of the camera, and obviously and under the pictures that I took were what I had originally taken up which was just around our house in our yard but I was still happy with them and they've been in a photo album ever since so you were intending to take photographs you had a camera you're four years old you have a camera I mean okay I'm gonna extend my whole thing down to four now was five before okay so so you're four years old you have a camera so you're putting your parents obviously saw that you camera was something that you would be at my mad joy my dad always did photography and seok was always made sure that there's a camera all right all right all right all right this is a good thing and uh and uh and so you're taking photographs around the house in the yard or whatever and you're expecting to get back prince or something color prints off the images that you took and obviously you've somehow let some light into the camera and you got this instead and it was actually much more inspiration what it was if they had been just pictures of my cat or caterpillars or whatever I was taking pictures of I'm sure they wouldn't have been any significance to me but having these just stuck with me and so from that beginning then what can you think of what the next step wass in your in your process of becoming a photographer I think my parents recognized that creating things made me happy, and I wasn't necessarily ever doing it for anyone else besides family members and myself, and they continued to push me to art classes, photography classes, anything in that kind of rome so I could continue to create no matter what kind of medium it wasn't experimented with the whole realm of what I wanted to dio and kept coming back to photography there's my one outlet to be able to create and express myself now. And, uh and were you taking these classes when you were in elementary school? Um and I started taking classes when I was in high school prior to high school, my dad had gotten me a camera, and we've done a little bit we did a little bit in the dark room beforehand, but I'd never taken a class until high school in previous day just kind of self taught myself and learned from my father, and so you're in high school and you're taking pictures and you're getting some some training and then having some experience. And were you envisioning yourself a za life as a photographer? Then do you think I don't think at that point I think it was when we're getting towards the end of high school and everyone was pushing us towards college and what we were going to do and really making us think about what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. And it was that I found photography to be just that creative outlet that spoke to me, and I could speak through it. And I just I just was happy with it, right? Right. And, uh and so when do you think that you, uh, that you began to say, uh, this is actually a professional career for me? I think once I did my first year at college and I tried everything else and nothing was really sticking with me, and I started doing a little bit of research on photography and just what it could be. And I think that was when I decided that I think I want to do this for the rest of my life. Understood. I found the program here at seattle central, and I looked through their website and their galleries, and I just fell in love with their work and knew that they could provide me with the expertise and the skills that I need to be successful in this career and, uh, looking at my notes here and when when people look at your work I put it back up on the screen here for a minute you know what do they say about what they tell you about your work the first thing that captivates people buy my work is the colors the vibrant strongest of them and it just it draws the men and then after that it's usually the shape and the composition and between those three things people are kind of sucked into the image and look at it a little bit longer and a little bit deeper and come up with their own perceptions of it and I think that's why I love creating the images I do is that it makes people think it makes them happy they like seeing something ordinary in an extraordinary way now your parents were cooks or cooks right? They were yeah they both went to culinary school and that definitely hence why I went for the yes yes I have always been a big foodie and it just kind of made sense that I would combine the two things that I really love and I do all the prepping myself absolutely I'd love it if I'm not photographing food I'm eating it and uh one of the other things you said to me when we were chatting I can't remember which time it was that that you were doing food photography and you realized this like wait a minute this has been done before I tried with the traditional food photography set table, your silverware, your glasses, your plate, your meal and I just I got bored with it. I got bored of it so quickly and I was just it wasn't for me, and it was when I I started thinking outside of the box and doing stuff that I hadn't seen done before was two when I really could get passionate about it and was really seeing that other people were responding passionately a well about it, too, because they had never seen that as well. And that was when I really found my strong point was doing something that I was new to everyone, but you gain skills from from doing the traditional yeah, yes, starting out with just the basics and obtain skills and every little job you have, whether it's photographing something you want to, we're doing a job where you could care less about the final image, but you learn everything we can skills change, which is important, yeah, but then but now you have a particular vision it's on your site, it's dominating the work that you're doing and really laying the groundwork for, you know, this is your expertise. I mean, this may change as you move along and gain experience in ginza clients and so on, so forth, so, uh tell us a little bit about your early work with clients just sort of you know where you are and what's happening with client work since I just graduated from school and still fairly new in that realm, I have had a few clients nothing too large a small personal jobs and I find that getting to know your client first is the best way to go into it and being aware of their personality and their aesthetic and what they're looking for and how to combine their style with mine to create an image that make both parties happy on that can they can identify with for a long time I was struck by the iconic aspect of the photos and saw that as a very powerful image that is because of its power is so memorable and uh, and and it it just really struck a chord with me. Is that the simplicity of the shapes, the caricature nature, you know, of the photos, the juxtaposition of different elements, the little bit of surprise when you discover something isn't what you thought it was, you know, the ice cream is actually cauliflower took took me a while to get there, which is nice, you know, it's sort of like you you discover that later, you know, you look at it first and you take it for what it is, you know, that the arm and in the cone and the color captivate you and the light color of the cauliflower which I then discover is cauliflower so yeah, yeah that's what I love about my images is that if I can watch someone look through a book of images and they stop and look at mine for just a little bit longer and then realize that there's more to it and there's more depth and they really have to look and discover for themselves and I know that I've created a successful image so so how do you okay, so after the fact, you know, I can see the image so that that means it looks easier to me than it really is, you know, I'm a professional, so I know I do know these things it's not easy so and to me they evoke feelings, you know, the images evoke feeling surprise, delight questions, you know, why is the cherry and the ice you know, you know, so so can you can you talk a little bit about how you try to get those feelings into the photos? I think that I go into my images just wanting to create a pretty picture to start with and as it unravels and as it kind of speaks to me as I'm taking the picture and then even more when I'm editing and kind of playing around with my post processing and what I can really do with it is when I get a sense of what feeling it will evoke because it's even a mystery to me when I start what feelings they're goingto coming from the images right and it's also a per interpretation I get a lot of different feedback on different images from different people everyone looks at my images differently should it makes them feel differently yes and uh so it's intuitive doing the images intuitive and then you and then you then you're kind of back into the rationale I think that's other also classic yeah so you so you you feel you you have a feeling about what would be making interesting image you set it up, you shoot it and then you're processing it and then you're thinking about okay what's the next step with that and then what might it mean so that's kind of so it's the feelings first and the meaning of second yeah yeah there is a saying I love you feelings trump logic every time feelings trump logic every time it's a quote from lana's to heli who's gonna be on in the next segment but it actually applies here and I think it applies to our work all the time feelings trump logic every time so ted yeah question what was it specifically about sarah that you that inspired you to bring her on here today? What like, what is this specific learning? Finally want to u nde early? Very early. So sarah's thie youngest guest this beginning, your career great spot to be in, and already a verily very finely formed sense of expertise. So this is a finally formed sense of expertise. Expertise is where our power is. I'm glad you asked the question expertise is where our power is. That's what we have to offer the community that we're going toe sell our services to, and so being focused on improved, you know, finding our expertise, and then improving it, improving it, improving it, that's, our future that's our power. And so you can see. So here it is in the beginning stage. I mean, you know, this may be your life. You may continue with these kinds of images, but it may change, it doesn't matter. You'll what you've gained from this stage is an expertise that's recognizable, instantly recognisable very, very powerful, very powerful makes my heart go. So any other questions for sarah? Yeah, go ahead. You know, starting out in photography um, I don't know what are some of your biggest fears right now? Great. That definitely goes back to the being afraid that your work isn't as good as you think it is so that you're not as good as you think it iss I just went through that whole thing with the two years in school, and every time we turned in an image, you feel really confident about it and then you say everyone else is work and you get that feeling like, oh, no, we're not good what's happening and then but it's it's something that I've learned to deal with and learn to ignore a little bit that everyone gets that feeling it's never going to go away, I'm still gonna have it for the rest of my life and when you're feeling uncreative and just kind of in a red too, just not think about it. The worst thing you can do is to overthink and just take a break. I watch family guy go walk outside, go take a nap. All of these are great ways to just kind of bring yourself back to your creative self and feeling self confident and just to not worry about it, everything is going to be fine everything's gonna work itself out got a question from fashion tv in singapore who was wondering now you mentioned that you did have very supportive parents from an early age? Do you think without that, you without that support you would still have gone in this direction or is that you can even speculate on and then ted I'd also love to hear your thoughts about dealing with the situations where we don't have support from our family and we don't have that ability to develop the expertise from an early age so second sir, I think that while their support did play a big role in it, they think I probably still would have gone in the direction that I did because it's something that I am personally passionate about and it's something that I love doing and it's something that makes me happy and that's one thing when choosing a career is, you know, going through college all the logistics of what jobs a realistic what jobs aren't what the market's like in reality it all boils down to what makes you happy what you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life and not to get too sucked into it at the same time because you might get halfway through and realized oh, maybe this career isn't for me and that's perfectly ok it's perfectly fine, yeah way all have childhoods way use what we have it's I think it's a simple is that great supportive parents fantastic you have terrible parents, you're resilient, you know whatever way use what we have and the smart thing is to focus on your strengths build on your strengths don't worry too much about your weaknesses fill in with team members, get help, kept support, whatever you need, focus on build on your strength. And do you have any thoughts on people who are at the opposite end of the spectrum who are starting maybe making a career shift later in life or are not starting early to develop that expertise like sarah? Did you have any thoughts on how to approach that differently? It feels the same to me because I'm doing a new career right now. This is a brand new career for me and and the feelings I have and what I'm doing and finding the expertise does not happen immediately and listening to feedback and getting feedback from my early riding and improving my writing skills. I mean, I couldn't read until I was in the fourth grade, and now I'm a writer. Um, you know, I'm not a great writer, but, you know, I do, in fact, right? And so I am discovering my new expertise and my new creativity as I go along at sixty eight I think I think we have the opportunity to do that at any point in our lives. And there's an adjustment period you're uncomfortable you don't think you're good at it, you know all those things and then you can find a little bit of success and you get a little bit of a claim and you feel better about it you know, I think that's universal like a couple of comments here, stacy says I think he chose a college student because she's just starting out and it's hard to negotiate when you are new and it's hard to understand your worth is a creative with a low experience and mark are said agreed and ted is presenting her as an example that though just starting out she has all the expertise it takes to make it she really does have a lot of experience and we can search for that experience in our lives also and what I want to encourage sarah to do is trust in her expertise trust in her ask expertise and ask for a slightly over the top of the range. Alison what if someone's flailing about a little bit and they're trying to find their way and they're being told that trust in their expertise and they're saying may expertise is unformed? Yeah, we're finding yeah, we're looking for we have to go through a period when we're trying to find our expertise and the flailing is part of the creative process and so it's a little bit uncomfortable and we don't feel particularly good about it, but we recognize that this is what we do when we kind of don't know where we're going yet and in fact you described it very well, you weren't quite sure, and you were trying different things and, you know, and then you kind of land on something and you go, wow, so make her heart go pitter pat, you develop it a little bit, get some feedback, you know, but it's a it's a process it's a process, it is the creative process, no questions here in the room, you know, as a fellow photographer, you know, I find, you know, something for myself that, like, I don't love just, like, diving into something new and like something I've never tried before. Do you find that, you know, same for yourself, like, have you ever, like, gone on to something totally radically different? Like your work here, like let's? Try this out, see what it's like, but then I don't, you know, compare it like, you know what you've learned from your work here to something newer, I have a little bit I am starting out in school, I came into the program thinking I want to shoot people and quickly realized that I don't want to shoot people. And and I kind of had to dabble around was what I wanted, teo, what I wanted to photograph, I landed on food and I really enjoy it, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to stick with that. I have loved doing new projects. I love thinking about new shoots that I'm going to do in the future, incorporating people into my work, incorporating video with some of the work that I do as well. I'm always excited to do new things because, like a lot of people, I get bored easily, and I have to keep finding new things to keep myself excited about the same stuff, classic, creative trade and maybe one final question, because I know that there is still more content to get to after this, but serial b says, how do you negotiate when you're starting out and you need class when you're not operating from a position of strength or anything like that? When it's it's either you get this client or you don't eat this month, get the client when you're thie answer is get the plan. Yeah, and get the best deal you can get as much as you can love it all right, thank you, sarah, that was fantastic, my pleasure, thank you for joining us.