Morning friends! We have another glimpse into a professional working photographer's journey here, for you, with our most recent #thinkTankPro Mark Edward Harris.
And so, without further ado... Mark!
Who are you, what do you do and how long have you been doing it?
If I had to choose one label it would be a relatively long one with an asterisk - Documentary/Travel Photographer. As I wrote in my first “how to” book, “The Travel Photo Essay: Describing a Journey Through Images” a travel photographer has to wear many photographic hats since any given travel assignment can include photographing
food, interiors, sports, landscape, wildlife, portraits, etc. I started off my career doing the stills for television and movie companies in Hollywood while pursuing my fascination with documentary and travel photography. My master’s degree is in Pictorial/Documentary History from California State University, Los Angeles which helped give me the tools for this focus.
When you started out in the field you’re in, how did you get your first “break” / was there a defining moment you just knew “This is what I want to do!”
The “this is what I want to do” moment came in the darkroom at California State University, Northridge when I first saw an image come up in the developer. It was so magical that I became hypnotized by the whole process. The concept of freezing a moment in time continues to be an endless source of fascination. Photography also combined perfectly with my love of travel and exploration.
When people like me ask you that question “What’s your favourite photograph you’ve ever taken” which one do you think of first?
The traffic officer in Pyongyang, North Korea photo is at the top of the list in terms of a single photograph and my Japanese hot spring series that’s resulted in three editions of a book, “The Way of the Japanese Bath” is at the top of the list in terms of a longterm project.
Do you have a photographic inspiration?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to interview many of the greatest photographers of our time for various magazines and books and in a sense all of them have been my teachers and sources of inspiration. Photographers such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gordon Parks, Mary Ellen Mark, Helmut Newton, Sebastiao Salgado, Eve Arnold are among them. W. Gene Smith, who I never had a chance to meet is an inspiration as well because of this dedication and approach to the photo essay.
What gear do you mostly use and what bags do you use mainly?
If I’m going to do a lot of urban exploration I’ll often turn to the Streetwalker® V2.0 Rolling Backpack and if I’m venturing into the jungles or rugged terrain I’ll put on the BackLight 26 or 36L depending on how many camera and lenses I need for a given assignment. If I’m going to do an on location shoot requiring lighting with my StellaPro or Profoto lights I’ll pack them along with stands in a Think Tank Production Manager rolling bag.
Any advice for someone wanting to do what you do?
I think the key to a successful career is to come up with your own projects to either supplement assignments or to become the driving force behind your work. Magnum photographer Eve Arnold gave me that advice years ago. The one thing you never want to do is to sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Life and careers are far too short for that approach.
Mark, thank you for taking time out to chat, as our latest #thinkTankPro we're certainly looking forward to following you around, bugging you for photographs of your gear!
Make sure you visit Mark at