The world is a constantly changing and evolving place, art, ideas, technology, are all moving at a breakneck pace, and keeping up can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Mark Sink is a photographer from Denver Colorado, he’s not just some photographer, he has had his hands in so many things, seen and experienced more than you could ever hope to in a lifetime.
I met Mark at an event for a Illiterate Magazine, in August, and was awestruck by what he does. I went on to do some research about him, and was completely fascinated. I asked him if he would do an interview and he kindly accepted. I was curious what his thoughts and views are about Technology, Pop Culture, Art, and where he sees it all going…
The interview started with a tour of his house, his cameras, his work, his memories. His walls are covered with pictures, and art. He points to one wall, “there’s Warhol in drag…”
“here are my wet plates, here’s one of my family over a 100 years old…”
The pictures were one thing, but his obsession with cameras was something to be in awe of.
After getting the tour, we sat down in his kitchen and started talking…
How and when did you begin on your path as a photographer? What are some of the key events in your life that lead you to the place you’re at now?
My poet friend calls me a Instamatic person ( in reference to the Kodak Instamatic camera)
so thats been me since i can remember.
.. I always photographed alot as a child and tweeny but never considered it as an art tool till college. I studied with Ruth Thorn Thomson the famous pinhole photographer. She encouraged reverse tech and experimentation and staging work…telling a story. I heard Emmit Gowen speak at a conference. At school we went wild in Metro photo labs when everyone went home at night .. then leaving when they arrived in the morning for class haha .. that work won awards and i even made money to pay for school.. Same time shooting bands and art performance artists i found i could support myself and pay rent.. got a loft .. Then meeting Andy Warhol i ran away to NY ..then studio commercial world there ..then bored and empty..went back to making art again ..i bloomed again..then landed some galleries and shows in NY and LA then very poor again.. then back to Denver and started MCA , a gallery and discovered the artistic power of curating ..then back being a art photographer again…..kinda went like that.
How has your vision as an artist/photographer evolved through the years?
That a good question …but very complicated. I laugh and am embarrassed cause some of the experimental work i did in 1980′s in school is as good or better then the work i am doing now…Now i am educated and far more versed in photographic arts but i am not sure if that has made my work any better. I review literally thousands of bodies of work every year so that effects me alot ..its kinda of intimidating…there is a crazy amount of top level work out there these days.. pouring out from all over the world. So I just put on my side blinders and plod forward and get to selfconcious.
I have researched the beginnings of photography and practice it now .. I am on the cutting edge of the digital revolution ( all tech and technique ) but my concept and vision is basically the same.
How did you ever end up in Denver?
I grew up in south Denver… but ending up? Once i got established with galleries and agents and stuff ..Denver was a cool place to be. I bought a beautiful historical house for pennies..( 50k) .. co-founded MCA/Denver in my backyard .. started an art gallery .. I could have not done any of that in NYC.
Do you have a favorite subject matter to photograph and if so, why?
My work tends to be more for the heart then the head.. I am in crazy for beauty and light. The more simple can me the most beautiful for me .. a dried leaf .. a reflection on glass.
I am crazy for woman and sexuality…. you know Freud’s thing.. Everything in the human condition is driven by sex and death. I try and photograph that journey.
What inspires you in your art?
haha .. sex and death.
Tell me a little bit about your process, i.e., technical details such as equipment, lighting, developing or whathaveyou.
Most my career was done with a plastic camera the Diana .. I shot big corporate commercial stuff with it .. and made my art with it .. But i have used and still own most analog formats .. 8×10 film 4×5 film ..hasselblad.. ..nikon system ..bla bla bla .. now is professional digital ..I waited a few years to get the nikon d3 its an amazing machine … changes the way one looks and uses light with a ASA setting of 9600 you can shoot literally in the dark and make it bright as day. I don’t make art with it …yet. I do make art with my new love .. a camera and lens made in the 1860s a Anthony and a Votlanger lens. I am very excited with this new exploration.
Tell me about the time you spent with Andy Warhol, and what that did for you. How did you ever become involved with him. And How did that effect you and your career?
I met him in ft Collins at CSU .. tracked him down and found him alone signing posters..we became friends and he hired me to work for Interview magazine.. It was a dream come true..i was a bit depressed in those days wondering how i was ever going to make it in the art world … meeting him and spending time in NY opened up my eyes and ego and drive.. it was a major break through for my self confidence. When I believed in myself all sorts of great things started happening.
The Diana, tell me a little about why you use it, and why you choose to use that rather than a large, expensive camera?
.. oh its romantic and different .. easy to carry around .. when your at a famous wonder of the world its the only camera to have .. and with simple nudes same… photo journalism no good. Its about dreams and romanicness not reality.
Your wet plate photography has a very surreal feel to it, how did you get into that, and continue that traditional form of photography?
Its a extension of my reverse technology gig .. everyone is striding for more mega pixels .. i like to go the other direction… it has a similar feel to the Diana camera. I like it cause its so pure .. direct .. its like the Polaroid of the 1860s ..the light that strikes the plate and is captured right on the glass ..and that is what is presented as the final object ..a beautiful jewel as a final object .. We are removed form that in this day and age of photography ..its all phoe now.. people really respond seeing it.
When I learned the story behind Your ‘Man Dies’ picture, it gave me the chills. Did you get it developed before or after Jean-Michel’s death? How did it effect you?
I think i had just got it developed shortly before his death.. I didn’t think much of it till rediscovering it and the “man dies ” later ..then it was really kinda weird.
You’ve seen culture through the years, you were involved in the traditional days, and here we are in the age of technology, has this effected your work? Do you think its been a good thing for art and culture?
The techno age has amazing great things of course .. the highlights are the finding of community .. gathering of like minded weirdos. The community with in myspace or now Facebook is a tool like we have never had .. instant notification .. for us artists this is crazy amazing tool. Marketing in general .. if your a working professional fine art photographer you have to have a blog .. a website ..and a facebook fan base… period. So that is big changes … as for my art … ummm .. i do some big digital print outs stuff but i am still struggling where it fits.. I like to be true to medium .. and digital is just phoe photography.
Digital needs its own voice ..not the voice of faking analog.
How are you adjusting to the changes that are constantly happening?
Oh sure … all my friends are half my age ..they keep me in the loop… keeping my nose in it yes and experiencing it yes .. adjusting yes .. but someway’s not in my basic artwork .. like my wetplates .. I love learning new tricks .. i love photoshop and web building software as much as anyone ..just i don’t know how to use it for fine art yet … i am dabbling just not full on yet.
Where do you see culture going, and art? Do you think its becoming washed out or do you think as we move more into the technology age we will see a resurgence of the old traditional method of doing things?
There will always be a counter culture … today like doing the old wet plate process haha
What is refreshing and new and exciting ..edge cutting … in 50 years your kids will be yawning and doing the opposite. 2080 they will be romancing photoshop .. and those funny old digital technologies.. Its always evolving changing growing .. your going to be a grumpy old timer one day .. promise … already my nieces says to me … uncle Mark you used to work in chemical photography in the 1900s what was that like ?
I didn’t answer body of your question…were is art and culture going? … shit ..i have no idea.. i could be a pessimist and say into the toilet empty phoe empty of craft and honesty to materials..skilless unattached.. cyber fanastcy .. or a optimist seeing all the amazing opportunities for the little unknown guy .. the strange little nerdy hidden guy with concept and unique ideas is going to start rising to the top.. its the ” Rise of the Creative Class ” that is the best thing to happen to art and culture in a long time. Its a very exciting future.
What advice do you wish you had when you started getting into the game of full time artist?
..Blurb.com and Facebook
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Keep high prices.
Just make art … lots of it ..have art salons in your home not online.. don’t be lazy ..students tend to be very lazy .. they have life so easy.. ..no pain no gain. Money softens if not kills .. do your art out of your heart .. not for money .. don’t think about making money from your art please. Do something else to make money for now.
Marketing … the best marketing thing to do now? Make a blurb.com or lulu.com book for gallery and curator drop offs. You can also get a ISBN number and sell it on amazon.
What are your plans for the future?
Love my girl friend. Make some cool blurb books on my work and my family … Find art galleries to carry my work in other countries so i can have a reason to travel there. Grow food and flowers ..be the first person on the block to be off the energy grid ..or better yet, get the grid to send me checks!!..then use the money to play and party in NY.
Oh … i think it’s time to start a new media and photography center in Denver. You heard it here first.
You can see more of Marks work at www.gallerysink.com/marksink/
Here are some more works by Mark -