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2016 Favorite Photographs //

2016 was one of the worst and best years of my life.  Here are some of my favorite images from the year.  

Self Portraits in My Studio

A few years ago I did a 100 Day Self Portrait project.  I made the commitment to plan, produce, shoot and edit one self portrait a day.  I would say that project pushed me into an entirely different realm of photography and art.  

Periodically I enjoy revisiting this novelty of the "self portrait".  Here's a few from a recent self portrait shoot I did in my studio in Durham, N.C.

Mountain Adventure \ Asheville, NC

Here are some of my favorite pictures from an adventure that my family and I took into the mountains of Asheville, NC. Most of these were shot with the Fujifilm X100 and a few were shot with the Canon 5D Mark lll with the 50mm 1.2 lens.  

Why We All Need More Couples Photos

I've been married to my wife now for 12 years. I take photos of her a lot.  I don't take photos of us that much though.    

I created this photo book for her as a gift to celebrate our anniversary. 

As I was creating it I realized just how few photos that we actually had together.  

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I wasn't ok with this.  I thought to myself "this is the most important person in the world to me and I don't have more photos of us.  what's the deal?"

I realized that  1) I'm always holding the camera.  2) I usually just take photos of Kathryn and not us.

I also noticed how I felt creating this book for her.  I felt joy, connection, intimacy...lots of dopamine being released. 

I asked myself "why am I not taking more photos of couples so they can feel this too?"

One of the goals that I have for the new year is to make more portraits "couples".  I'm going to be working hard to step outside of my normal "portrait" and to focus more on couples portraits. 

What does that mean for you?  

If you have a partner then we should connect!

If you know someone who has a partner then share this with them!

Take advantage of the "Couples Portrait Session" special that I've got going on this month:

In honor of celebrating 12 years with the love of my life, I've decided to give you the opportunity to invest in a couple's session with the love of YOUR life. I am offering 1/2 off my normal session fee.

Happy Holidays,

Mark

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Urban Portrait Photography in the Snow - Durham, NC

Here is some urban portrait photography during the recent snow in my darling town of Durham, NC.

Stay warm!

Iraq portrait photography. the story behind.

I took this portrait while I was in Iraq in 2005.  These are local Iraqis that I worked with everyday.  

They were from a town called Habbaniya.  

In the months that I was there I built some interesting relationships with these guys.  

They all had a story.

One of the greatest lessons I learned being around these folks is that there is literally no difference from one human to another.   We all have families, struggles and passions.  

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Please leave a comment below before you leave. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post.  

If you want to check out some more  of my Iraq portrait photography then read this post:

My issues with Veteran's Day

12 portraits from this week. Cinemagraphs too.

here are 12 of my favorite portraits from this week.  just in cased you missed them.

20 portraits that I posted this week l Urban-Modern-Durham, NC

As an unostentatious, low-born portrait photographer it's fairly difficult to get people to your actual website due to low SEO rankings, lack of popularity and the simple fact that I'm pretty new at all this.

One of my goals is to have my "audience size" and "page visits" increase from month-to-month.

I've met this goal for the past 5 months.  

Sometimes though, I post portraits on social networks that never get to my website therefore those of you who follow my blog faithfully don't get to enjoy them.  

So in an attempt to address these important issues I'm going to try and create a post like this once a week. 

Let me know you're out there. Leave a comment please!

 

If you missed my last blog post on how much I freaking hate the holidays along with some art. Click here.

Why I hated the holidays and love the cinemagraph.

Ok I don't HATE the holidays. I just made that the title so you would click on my blog post.

The holidays are a hustle for me though. From November through December it seems like I am bombarded with people who want portraits.  

For their mom. Their boyfriend. Their cat. 

I love getting paid to make portraits.  It's what I do and I enjoy it so much.

But sometimes I just want to have the freedom make something that doesn't involve boundaries or clients .

Since I made it through the holidays I've commenced some new projects that I am doing for the sheer enjoyment of it.

One project is known as the "cinemagraph".

 It's basically a very complex and well-thought out animated GIF.  Some of these were shot with video while others were done using a "stop-motion" photography technique.  

After I shoot them I deconstruct the frames in photoshop and then add some voodoo. 

Here are a few that I've experimented with.  Keep checking back to my Cinemagraph page as I periodically add more.  I also have a Tumblr.  You'll often see them there too.

 

Never heard of a cinemagraph before?  

The two photographers that coined the term are Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg.  Find their work at cinemagraphs.com

 

 

The story behind this portrait.

On Christmas morning my wife and I got up and ascended her parents farm in the mountains of western North Carolina.  As we left I reached for my camera and she said "please don't take any photos of me.  I don't have any make-up on".  I said "ok".

As we walked up the mountain the light got better.  I convinced her to let me shoot some portraits of her.  I told her that I wouldn't post any of them.  

We reached the peak of the hill and the sun showed itself.  I asked her to stop just as we passed a tree that created a delightful shadow through the woods.

That's when I got this portrait. 

I have posted this portrait pretty much everywhere and have put it in my portfolio.  I had permission.

LESSON LEARNED:  Be tenacious and pushy.  

Jonathan + Plymouth 🀆 Julian, North Carolina

I met Jonathan Oliveau while I was literally running to my car trying to get back to Durham, NC in time for my wife to take our car (side note: last year we traded our 2nd car in for a bike). Anyways, he was the first person I met as I pulled into his farm-style home in Julian, North Carolina.  

I was there for a fashion shoot with some models and his wife happened to be one of the make-up artists for them.  

As I talked to him I could tell he was creative, ambitious and a dreamer.  He wore this wondrous hat that I couldn't help but covet portraits with.  

After I finished the fashion shoot, I ran into his home and asked him to grab his hat and leather jacket if he was willing.  He was.    

Lesson Learned: trust your gut and don't be afraid to ask people for what you want.  Sometimes people need courage.

Austin Trotman - Darkhorse - 2016 Olympic Hopeful

Last year I got to do a portrait session with my good friend Austin Trotman.

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Austin and I wrestled together during our undergraduate campaigns at Appalachian State University.  

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He now wrestles for Team USA and trains with world champion and olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs.

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In 2012, Austin defeated the #1, #2 and #3 nationally ranked wrestlers at the NCAA D1 wrestling tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.  

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During my graduate program at Appalachian State University I chose him my subject for a year long documentary project I did.

This was by far the most extensive project that I have done with the exception of my self portrait project.  I remember struggling through the processes of creating a documentary as well as knowing nothing about video, editing, lighting or story-telling.   

I also remember the feeling of finishing the video, sharing it and seeing the huge impact it had on the community of "wrestling".  

I had no idea that Austin's story (or the way I told it) would create an emotional reaction like it did in people.  

To this day when I am at wrestling events I meet people who thank me for making this piece. At the time I thought it was because of my "amazing documentary video skills".  

Not so (as you will see when you watch it). 

It was actually because it gave people a small amount of hope.  

LESSON LEARNED:  My inability to make perfect art is not important. It's how humans react to it that is important.  

Best Self Portrait Photography - Durham, NC

This past week I took a break from other folks and turned the camera on myself with another self portrait photo shoot.

I shot these at 930am-1030am and positioned my screen to create the interesting angle of the sunlight coming through the window.  Honestly I didn't plan this.  It just happened.  

Shot with 50mm lens at 1.2 .  Edited with VSCO FILM 06. Mostly Porta. 

Please leave a comment below on which one is your favorite!

The Story Behind This Portrait - Durham, NC

I approached this gentleman in Durham, NC and asked him if I could take his portrait.  He was leaning against a back alley way watching the pedestrians stroll by.  He seemed disconnected.  I also felt somewhat disconnected and out of place because I wasn't really interacting with the subjects that I was taking portraits of.  

After I asked him if I could take his portrait, he began to tear up and proceeded to tell me that he moved to Durham after Hurricane Katrina. He told me he lost everything.  I was initially confused as to why he was telling me this but I quickly understood that he was simply recognizing the connection that had happened by me approaching him and he was moved enough to tell me the story that he recollects the most.

LESSON LEARNED: Don't just take portraits.  Get the story then take the portrait.   In post-processing I was able to choose the portrait that seemed to communicate the man's story most effectively because we had a short conversation before I took the portrait.  

Urban Street Portraits - Centerfest Arts Festival in Durham, NC

Here are some of my street portraits from the Centerfest Arts Festival in Durham, NC this weekend!  Thanks to Riley Maclean for shooting with me.

 

100 Days of Self Portraits and the Lessons I Learned
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For the past one hundred days I have shot/edited/posted one self-portrait every day. I'm not done by any means. In fact, I'm actually going to be doing 365 of them.  I will be taking the month of August off to reflect and regroup though.

So I wanted to share three lessons that I've learned over the past 100 days:

LESSON 1.  Not everybody likes my style and that's okay.

When I began this self-portrait project I knew that everyone was going to love all of my photos.  Wrong.

After I came to the realization that this was a ridiculous notion (which took about a month) I began to see a change in my work. This change was very welcome because it liberated me to make photographs that were specifically my style and not what other people wanted my style to be.


LESSON 2.  I can ALWAYS become a better photographer.

I walked into my good friend Riley Maclean's studio in Durham, North Carolina (www.rileymaclean.com) just after I finished my first 30 days of self-portraits.  I was excited to get his reaction on my project and my work.  His reaction surprised me and caught me off guard. "You've gotta step up your game " he said.  Riley's words have run through my mind almost every day since then. It was a challenge to push myself to get better every day and to take better photographs every time I shoot.


LESSON 3. Think less. Do more.

For most of my life I've been a pretty creative guy. I've had at least what I felt like to be really wonderful and original ideas.  The only problem is I've never done anything about it.  I have wasted my energy on thinking about game changing projects that are eccentric and complex.  "it also turns out that 'doing stuff' counts a hellvua a lot more than 'thinking about doing stuff' ". Chase Jarvis (www.chasejarvis.com) said this during an interview with Dan Schwabel at Forbes.com where he was talking about some of the lessons he has learned. Find it here.  This quote was actually the catalyst that caused me to do this project and has challenged me to shoot more photos and to stop worrying so much. 

You can follow my journey through my 365 day self-portrait project at: 

www.markmayaphoto.com 

www.Facebook.com/Markmayaphotography 

www.instagram.com/Markmayaphoto

www.Twitter.com/Markmayaphoto

Here is the first hundred days of my 365 day self-portrait project. Cheers!