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Much ado about Mark

Natanga Smith Hurdle

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As a young lad, Mark King was constantly drawing and so his parents, Michael and Jacqueline King, enrolled him in art classes.
But for his sixteenth birthday he was given a Canon Rebel 2000 35mm film camera by his dad when he expressed his interest in trying a different medium.
It was love at first click and he took classes in photography and darkroom technique while in high school.
He said it was while doing his Bachelor of Arts degree in advertising at Howard University in Washington DC, that he saw he could make a career out of the creative industry.
“It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to pursue a career in the creative industry. I would say that it dawned on me during undergrad. Doing internships with a commercial photographer had a significant influence on my decision.  Before taking part in those internships, I felt that it was unlikely that I could make a career in the creative industry.”
Mark, along with nine other emerging photographers, is currently on a six-month mentorship with the Lucie Foundation 2011 E-pprentice programme. He is paired with Los Angeles-based celebrity and entertainment portrait photographer, Roger Erickson.
This organization is a non-profit foundation whose mission is to honour master photographers, discover and cultivate emerging talent and promote the appreciation of photography worldwide.
Mark is now back home, after living in  places like Belgium, The Bahamas and the United States, with a Master of Fine Arts in photography from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California.
What do you shoot?
I shoot a variety of projects. I have done ad campaigns, editorial shoots, landscapes and still life work. I really enjoy working in an editorial and commercial environment as well. But my work these days is primarily fine art and people based. I prefer my personal projects shot with either the Hasselblad 500 series or the Leica Mini II.
What equipment do you travel with to shoot and what piece can you not live without?
It all depends on what I am shooting for. It can range from just a point and shoot camera to three cameras, light meter, colour gels, gaffer tape, ladder, reflector, foam core, and strobe lights. On set I must have music and water.
What photographers inspired you, or what inspires you as a photographer?
There is so much out there that inspires me. I draw inspiration from the most unlikely places as well as from pop culture. Photographers like Martin Parr, Juergen Teller, Harry Callahan, Terry Richardson, E.O. Hoppe, Richard Avedon, Stefan Ruiz, David LaChapelle, Helmut Newton and William Eggleston have been major influences.  
Do you pre-visualize your photos or do you put all your components together as you go?
It is really a mixture of the two. Often, I pre-visualize a project where minor details change during the process, but there also are times when I put myself in a position where I have to think on my toes and work very quickly, constantly making new creative decisions and assessing the situation as I go.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge when setting up and working on a shoot?
I would say that pre-production is the hardest part. What makes it worst is when talent cancels while I am on set waiting for them to show up. That is my biggest peeve. Nothing is worse than spending days preparing for a shoot and your subject cancels on you for a lame reason.
Do you have any funny/crazy/weird photo shoot experience that stands out?
I recently did a funny shoot in Belgium, where I took portraits of a Ghanaian gentleman named Orlando, who designs and makes his own eccentric clothes. We did a four-hour portrait session, where we walked around the Ixelles neighbourhood in Brussels, shooting in alleys, a Turkish pizza spot and on the street. During the shoot, Orlando recounted folk tales from Ghana and shed some light on his creative process. He also requested pizza for lunch, which worked out perfectly because it matched one of his many outfits.
What are some of your upcoming projects that we should be on the lookout for?
I am currently working with a great team towards bringing the Manifesto Festival ( to Barbados soon. Manifesto Community Projects is a non-profit organization that started with an arts festival in Toronto, Canada, four years ago and has grown to a huge movement in Canada and Jamaica. Manifesto provides a platform and resources needed to advance the growth of the arts as a tool for positive change on the individual, community and national level.
Now it is Barbados’ turn to showcase, energize, and connect our talented art scene with Barbados and the whole world. 
Are you planning to set up shop here?
My ideal situation would be to keep Barbados as my base and continue to travel as much as possible for commissioned work, gallery shows, and artist-in-residency programmes. I would also like to try my hand at creative direction someday.
How is the international scene different from Barbados?
I have found that the art scene in Barbados is rich with talent, but there are not enough opportunities for young artists to showcase their work and there isn’t much support from the public. When I go overseas to places like New York, San Francisco, London, Vancouver, Paris or Berlin what you see is art everywhere. There are places for young artists to meet, study, display, and discuss their work. The supporting creative industries are flourishing in these cities, so there is a vital relationship between the creative industries and art community.
Do you put pressure on yourself in terms of the quality of your work?
I am definitely my worst critic. There are so many amazing photographers out there, if I didn’t hold myself to a high standard I would get totally lost in the mix.
Art is such a competitive field. What do you think it takes for an artist to succeed?
I am trying to figure that one out for myself. But so far I have learnt that dedication to your work and constant networking goes a very long way. Also paying attention to detail.