A plane on its way to Los
Photo lnterview with Mark Edward Harris:
Name: Mark Edward Harris
Birthday: September 30
Colleges: California State University, Northridge (B.A. History), California State University, Los Angeles (M.A. Pictorial/Documentary History)
Books: 1. Side Effects by Woody Allen 2. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain 3. Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
Movie: Dr. Strangelove
Quote: Saru mo ki kara ochiru (even a monkey falls from a tree)
How long have been in photography? How did you start? Photography started for me out of a love of travel and a way of documenting journeys. First they were as a child on family vacations sharing my dad’s Konica 35mm camera and an 8mm movie camera. His work was in the television and radio industries and was often using a still camera to promote various projects for the stations he was working with.
In college I took a darkroom class and fell in love with the photographic process itself. It was magical to see images coming up in the developer. Even though I’m now all digital that feeling of magic has never left me. It’s incredible how photography is able to freeze a moment in time.
My first regular photography work as a professional started when I did the “stills” on The Merv Griffin Show in the mid-1980s. When the show ended I took off for the South Pacific and Asia to build up a documentary/travel portfolio and that put me on the road to what I continue to do and love to this day.
How would you define yourself as an artist? I tend toward the documentary end of the photography spectrum but I have a very humanistic approach. I’m much more interested in trying to understand the how’s and why’s of human interactions within and between different cultures rather than focusing on the blatantly negative aspects of human nature, that is, conflict. That’s very important to document but there’s a lot more to life than that unfortunate aspect to “civilization.”
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere, ranging from daily news to art exhibitions and travel. I feel so “in the moment” when I’m walking down the streets of Pyongyang or Zodiaking past icebergs off of Greenland or on a seemingly endless hike in a blizzard on Nepal’s Everest trek. But things don’t always have to be that obvious though.
A Japanese film from the early 1960s or a suggestion from a friend can open a floodgate to new ideas. A did a hike on Japan’s Nakasendo which connected the ancient capital of Kyoto with Edo, now Tokyo. I was channeling the legendary haiku poet Basho along the way. It was more of a mental exercise but a very rewarding one.
Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life today? My father who has had polio since he was a child but never let it stop him from being an athlete and having great success in his chosen profession. My mother also gave me a key early on in my career when she suggested that I write my own stories to go along with my photographs after I had mentioned to her that I was struggling to find a writer to team up with on a particular project. I still prefer team up with writers but I’m not dependent on finding one to move forward on what I feel is a good story. I write about the marriage between the pen and the camera in my first how to book, “The Travel Photo Essay: Describing A Journey Through Images. I also have done countless interviews with other photographers from Alfred Eisenstaedt, Helmut Newton and Mary Ellen Mark to Gordon Parks, Cristina Garcia Rodero, and Sebastiao Salgado, and they have constantly been an incredible source of inspiration as well.
What for you is the most enjoyable part of your photography? The camera has been the key that has opened the world to me through travel and documentary projects. So far I’ve been to 97 countries but tend to keep going back to specific places to further personal projects. For example, my book, “The Way of the Japanese Bath” is in its second edition and I’m starting to collect new images for an eventual third edition while generating new features on the subject of Japanese hot springs along the way. Putting projects together in book form is definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of the work I do. It gives me a way to share my projects with others. On a heavier subject, my books “North Korea” and “South Korea” addressed the issues on the Korean Peninsula 60 years after the signing of the Armistice that stopped, but did not officially end the Korean War.
Is brainstorming not the only creative method use to create new concepts? A lot of the brainstorming I do is internal. I will talk to magazine editors and colleagues about potential projects or to flush out ideas but I tend to go after projects that “feel right” whether I have a publication attached to them or not. That said, I am around incredibly creative people from writer Pico Iyer to designer Kelly Wearstler who are fantastic resources and friends to “kick around” ideas. The idea of doing a story on the film industry in North Korea for Vanity Fair germinated in the sands of Namibia when Pico and I were there for an Adventure Travel World Summit.
Please could you tell us about photography and digital technology? I was an analog shooter until 2005 when I started my project in North Korea. It would have been too conspicuous to go in with 50 rolls of film. Also by then, digital had pretty much caught up to film, at least in the 35mm format. There is still something special about working with black and white film and developing images in a traditional darkroom and I admire people who still do it though I haven’t done it for more than a decade.
What type of camera do you use most? The Nikon D850
What is your favorite lens? My go to lens is the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 but I find the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro incredible for portraits.
Describe your style: Define yourself… Mark Edward Harris: Documentary/travel photography with a humanistic approach
Art Fairs: As a photographer, I think it’s important to make the rounds at PhotoPlus in New York. It coincides with the annual International Photography Awards so it’s a fantastic time to catch up with old friends, make new business connections, and learn about the latest technologies and trends. Around the world there are so many other great opportunities to expand our photographic brains. To name a couple, in France there’s Paris Photo, Les Rencontres Arles, and Visa pour l’Image Festival. In Germany, there’s Photokina. I don’t limit myself to purely photography-focused art fairs and exhibitions. I was very inspired buy some of the work I came across at the Venice Biennale including the politically infused woodblock prints of Latvian Mikelis Fisers. I would love to get over to Art Basel one of these days. Inspiration is everywhere. We just have to open ourselves to it.
Museums: LACMA, Annenberg Center for Photography, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Benesse Art Site Naoshima to mention just a few.
Cities: New York, Tokyo, Hanoi, Pyongyang, Zermatt, Varanasi, Hong Kong
Travels: Everywhere, I’ve been to 97 countries so far and always love exploring new places.
Who are the artist’s you admire the most? Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Gauguin, Hiroshige
Music: Classic Rock, K-POP, classical
Cars: Mini Cooper
Drones: A Polaroid PL3000 RC Drone, I’m still learning hot to fly it.
A plane on its way to Los
What has been your most memorable assignment and why? In the last year I’ve had some very memorable assignments including Kurdish Iraq was incredible not only because of the places where visited but the people I traveled with and met along the way. I also was up in Greenland and the High Arctic traveling on an Adventure Canada ship through the Northwest Passage. I felt like a 19 th century explorer with 21 st century comforts when we got back to the ship. It was amazing to see how remote pockets of civilization survive in this magnificent but unforgiving part of the globe.
What are your favourite three images you have shot recently? In the last year or so I would say, “Iceberg” Disco Bay, Greenland, “Bear Catching Salmon” Brooks Falls, Alaska, and “Gorilla” Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. For whatever reason, I’ve done a lot more nature work in the last year. I do love that aspect of travel. I would also add that I did my strongest sunset image to date as well on the Chilean island of Chiloe.
How important is an awesome website for your business? Vital for what I do. A business card means very little. We as photographers need to show images. I’m a very late arrival to Instagram, but that’s a great tool that I am finally embracing…
What’s the most important quality a photographer needs to have? Discipline. That goes for pretty much everything in life if you want to succeed.
Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction? My North Korea and Japan hot springs projects as well as my continuing series on acclaimed photographers which in addition to hundreds of magazine features, ended up as my first book in 1998.
Who are the photographer’s you admire the most? There are hundreds of them. W. Gene Smith, Sebastiao Salgado, Mary Ellen Mark,
Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks, Alfred Eisenstaedt. Formento and Formento, to name a few.
What about architects and designers? Tadao Ando, Walter Gropius, Charles and Ray Eames, Kelly Wearstler
What are your next projects? I’m going refocus on a series on Orangutan portraits I started a couple of years ago as well as hopefully doing a lot more work in Japan in the run up to the 2020 Olympics. I also hope to continue my work on the Korean Peninsula. In addition, I will be teaching a series of photography workshops around the world that will be listed on my website.
Define ” Klassik Magazine International” for the audience? International
Copyright: Mark Edward Harris Photo Captions:
Cover: Photographer Sebastiao Salgado in Los Angeles.
The Rolling Stones perform at the 2015 edition of the Quebec Summer Festival
Portrait of a young girl on the streets of Pyongyang, North Korea.
A performance of the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang, North Korea.
A traffic officer in Pyongyang, North Korea.
A young girl with a knife in from of her family’s home on the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia.
A Zodiak passes by an iceberg in Disko Bay, Greenland.
A bull in a silk store in Varanasi, India.
A henna factory in Yazd, Iran.
A boat stranded by the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Otsuchi, Japan.
A snow monkey in a hot spring in Jigokudani, Japan.
A view out the window from a hot spring at the Dai-ichi Takimotokan Ryokan
in Noboribetsu on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Children play on Majuro in the Marshall Islands.
A young woman from the Himba tribe at the entrance to her family’s hut in Namibia.
Women on a bench in Pamplona, Spain.
A bear about to catch a salmon at Brooks Falls, Alaska.
A plane passes by a full moon on its way to Los Angeles International Airport.
The late photographer Gordon Parks in New York.
A young boy on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.