Judging by my rate of progress, I think I’ll be making the photographs of my dreams in 5 years or so. Everything so far feels provisional, make-shift, incomplete. Let’s see.
Mark Peckmezian – Toronto, Canada
Commercial representation in the US and Europe by Webber Represents
In Canada by Lisa Bonnici
Gallery representation in Canada by O’Born Contemporary
What draws you to portraiture?
I’m not sure. My interest in it surprises and confuses me. I’m not a very social person, lack social grace, and have a stutter. You’d need a psychoanalyst to decode this one.
I should note, though, that I think a lot of my photos of people aren’t even really portraits proper. In the past couple years I’ve been taking true portraits (photos that are about the sitter, the person as subject) but before that I used people more often as “props”of sorts, where the subject was something else entirely, usually a mood or state.
Do you feel that your subjects are collaborators in your photographs? For me, your portraits have a very collaborative feel. Are you working mostly with friends, or also models, and strangers?
I work with all sorts of people: friends, strangers, models, whomever. Most of my subjects lately have been friends of friends, people I know loosely. I guess portraiture is inherently a two person job, and so is necessarily collaborative, but I have the belief that a good photographer can get a good picture out of anyone; the buck stops with the photographer. That said, some people make it much more easy. All I ever really want in a model or subject is that they be themselves, the more unself-consciously the better.
Something I enjoy about your work is that you change up styles and techniques. How important is experimentation to your work? And what role does film and the darkroom play in that process?
Ultimately I’m just following my intuition and excitement wherever it leads, and all that experimentation and stylistic diversity stems from this. That said, I also believe as a matter of ideology that it is very important for an artist to work in different styles and modes. My work isn’t about a particular style, and to work only in one style gives that style undue weight. When you work in different styles it draws into relief the much more important and meaningful common denominator: your personality or worldview. I think that it’s that personality or worldview that is the heart of one’s art.
All of my work is film, and all of the black and white work is darkroom printed. I used to only work in this way but have been doing a lot of colour work in the past few years. The darkroom has been my biggest ally, my most influential partner, in all of this. Every “error” is interesting and has something to teach you. So often a new aesthetic or concept begins as a mistake — I accidentally print a photo two stops too dark and realize that the resulting aesthetic suits it better, to give a modest example. I have learned more from the idiosyncrasies of film and paper and chemicals than anything else. I pity the digital photographer and their absolute control over an image. I’ve always been drawn to working in the darkroom for the above reasons, but I continue to work in it today for conceptual reasons, mostly.
What do you find challenging about making a portrait?
The social dimension to it. Directing people well is skill that I’m still trying to develop.
You’ve achieved both gallery and commercial representation at a relatively young age. Has that created any pressure or expectations for you? Or has it been more liberating for your work?
I guess both. I do feel some pressure to not slip up, to keep a certain momentum. This is mostly for the best: just another reason to work hard. But, if I’m not careful, I can see the pressure unduly influencing the nature of my work. Always need to watch for this. I know in my bones that integrity is more important than success, but I also know that it’s all too easy to lose sight of that, in ways big or small.
How do you see yourself progressing in the next couple of year? Do you have projects you’re working on, or are you more likely to just go with the flow and see what happens?
I plan to move to NY, probably early next year. I am in talks with a new agency, based in New York and London, that will represent me for commercial work in the US and European markets. I want to settle on some US gallery representation in the next year too. My goal is to move to New York, work full-time on my art and part-time on commercial and editorial work. But I feel weird using that word “art” — personal creative fulfillment is my big goal, call the product of that art or call it whatever.
I have a million ideas now and am tinkering with a bunch of different concepts, just watering some seeds. Nothing has sprouted yet, but I feel myself getting closer and closer. Judging by my rate of progress, I think I’ll be making the photographs of my dreams in 5 years or so. Everything so far feels provisional, make-shift, incomplete. Let’s see.