Posts tagged portrait photography
Kristen \\ Raleigh, NC

I'm not sure if Kristen Hill of Kristen Abigail Collective knows how much of my musician work was influenced by her musician work.  She's shot the likes of Ryan Adams, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Mat Kearney, Gregory Alan Isakov and too many more to name.  I even remember emailing her and asking how she was shooting all of these big names.  Her answer: "I hustle". 

Since then I put her "hustle" into practice and have ventured into the musician portrait photography genre a bit.  It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life getting the shoot Stelth Ulvang (of The Lumineers), Ben Sollee, Griffin House, Nappy Roots, Laura Ballance and many more!

If you're interesting in getting into the music industry or need promo for you band then contact her at kristenabigailpm@gmail.com

Here's some photos from the portrait shoot I did with her in downtown Raleigh.

Blake Stepan \\ Durham, NC

While Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers was in town for his show at The Pinhook, he brought with him a double bass player.  Blake Stepan.

Blake plays for numerous bands but his favorite is Spirits of the Red City.  You can see Blake playing here with them on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert entry that the band submitted.

I got to spend some time with Blake before and after shooting musician portraits of him at Full Steam Brewery in Durham, NC.

5 things I learned from spending time with Blake:

1.  He was the valedictorian of his college. 

2. He works with pre-k students

3. He is funny, passionate and extremely intelligent.

4.  He started his music career by playing on the street

5. He won't stop smiling.

 

My goal for Blake was to portray him by seamlessly meshing my urban portrait photography style with his free, deep and fun-loving spirit.

This shoot took about 3 minutes and I did it in the front room of Full Steam Brewery in Durham, NC.

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.

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.  

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.  

My Biggest Struggle with Photography and Lesson Learned

We all have struggles.  We all wish things were different sometimes.  

The thing that makes us special is our passion to connect with others.  The goal with all of my portraits is to somehow connect human beings.  

Here's the problem though.

I use photography to disconnect myself from others sometimes.  It's very easy to be the "the guy with the camera" and not have to talk to anyone.  I often use photography to create a barrier between myself and social situations.   As someone who continually struggles to keep my emotions "under control" this is difficult especially as a photographer. 

This is my biggest struggle with photography. 

The interesting thing is that since I have been shooting more portraits of people, my ability to connect to others has increased.  I am able to talk to others with less anxiety.  I can give an authentic smile to someone and I can leave a shoot with a sense of fullness having met my goal of not only connecting other humans, but also connecting myself. 


LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes the thing we are scared of the most is actually the thing we need the most. 


Bipolar Disorder and Photography

 

Recently I was featured on Broken Light Collective's gallery.  They are an organization that enhances "the lives of people living with or affected by mental illness through the use of therapeutic photography".

I have been waiting for an opportunity to share this part of my life and I feel this will do.

I have Bipolar II.  Bipolar II is a more mild form of the commonly heard of mental illness, Bipolar I, that results in depression and mania. 

This has actually been one of the catalyst to my quite successful creative life according to "The link Between Bipolar Disorders and Creativity: Evidence From Personality and Temperament Studies." (2010) by S. Ketter Srivastava.  A study from Karolinska Institute in Sweden also shows that families with a history of bipolar...were more likely to produce creative people.  

Yay for me. Right?

Well yeah kind of,  but I will tell you this:

I do struggle everyday to keep it together.  My family, health, job, creative projects and the like continually fill my mind with energy and daunting taxation. 

Photography, and being creative in general, has been my prime source of therapy.  

As you enjoy my photos understand that they are not just photos but they are an extension of me, my thoughts and a lot of times they're not happy.  


Recently, one of my favorite photographers, Jeremy Cowart, was asked to do an interview with only one question asked: "What is the single most effective marketing tactic you use to grow your photography business?"

His response: "I wear my heart on my sleeve"


 

enjoy my heart guys.

-Mark