Q & A with Photographer Mark Olwick

We thought it was admirable that Mark shoots primarily in film. We were excited to ask him a few questions and get a feel for his passion. We think you'll really enjoy hearing what he as to say and the photos he has chosen to share. Enjoy!

What type of photography do you prefer and why?

The goal of my photography is to capture the dream or emotions surrounding faraway places, rather than the literal documentation of them. A dream is an elusive thing to capture though, and it’s taken me a long time to come up with a look that reflects that.  After much experimentation, shooting film is the way I achieve the look that I envision.

To the “why” portion of the question, there are two answers:

I hate taking a photo that I’ve already seen a million times before.  Anyone can travel to an exotic country and photograph a wrinkled old person in a doorway.  If I ever catch myself doing that, I immediately stop and try to figure out how I could capture the feeling or emotion surrounding the situation.

My dream was always to be a photographer for National Geographic.  Nat Geo photographer Sam Abell's mother taught English at my high school, so it seemed like it was possible (teenager logic, there).  As I got older though, I realized what a "job" that would be.  Deadlines, demanding editors, project schedules...yuck! To be clear, I'd still love to see my photos in National Geographic, but would never want to shoot the shots that others want me to, and on their timeline.  That revelation was really what got me into fine art photography. It gives me that freedom.

What tip(s) would you give someone just starting out in photography?

Photograph your passion, and have fun. That’s all that matters.  Don’t get hung up on chasing the latest and greatest camera or pixel-peeping on review sites. Get out from behind the computer and go make photos. Play. Fail. Play some more.

Where is your favorite place to travel and to photograph?

The next one!  I have a huge fondness for both Asia and Africa.  I love to learn about other cultures and try to get away from the main tourist sites and try to understand the environment that I’m in. Photographing something helps me figure that out.

Who is a photographer you have looked to for inspiration?

Too many to list, but some people whose photography I admire and study are Keith Carter, Rocky Schenck, Edward Steichen, Alfred Steiglitz and more. I also look to painters and other artists for inspiration.  Vermeer’s use of light still amazes me.

What made you decide to get into photography?

I've always loved photography and that passion has continued throughout my life. I was always the kid with the camera, starting with a Kodak Brownie when I was probably 8 or 9.  I just love capturing memories and the entire creative process.

Anything else?

People know me as a film photographer, and that’s primarily what I shoot simply because it lets me achieve the vision I have in my head. I shoot with everything from a Holga to Hasselblad. It’s always fun to see the reactions of people when I’m in Africa photographing elephants with a Holga, for example (see “Three Elephants, Botswana”).  My guide in Africa said “You should have been here last week – we had a serious photographer with us.”!

You might think I'm religiously passionate about film but I'm honestly not.  I'm a strong believer in visualizing photographs before you shoot, so I use the tool that will get me closest to that.  I primarily shoot film for that reason (plus I absolutely hate sitting in front of a computer for hours doing Photoshop).  Digital is better at certain things though, especially high-ISO.  Since everyone's vision is (or should be) personal, each person should use the tool that suits them best.

Speaking of the right gear - I love Gura Gear bags because they’re light, tough, and made by photographers.  I travel very light, which is a necessity when flying on small charter flights in Africa. Keep making great bags, guys!

Mark Olwick


Here's some of Mark's shots. If you’d like to see more of his photography, please visit www.olwickphotography.com

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