Don't you hate it when photographers write their own bios in the third person?
I have often described my professional career as "accidental". I never set out in earnest to become a professional photographer. My professional career really began with a solo exhibition of my artwork; at the time my photographs were primarily interiors of sex clubs, churches, and other hidden interiors. From that exhibition I got an assignment from Vogue to shoot still lives of jewelry, and an annual report for Chase Manhattan; projects I was completely unqualified for. I then proceeded to get other assignments that I was equally unqualified for; cars, travel, portraits, fashion, more annual reports, everything. I was broke so I pretty much took every assignment that came my way and figured it out as I went along, which explains my diverse skill set. If I had to pigeonhole myself I'd say that a lot of art directors and editors think of me as a photographer who works in the gaps between specialties; an automotive specialist might be a little confused by a portrait assignment, but if you need a portrait of a person with a car in an interior, I might be the guy. I've also managed to work in a particular specialty for each magazine; cars and business portraits for Fortune, photo-journalism for German Playboy, adventure for Men's Journal and Unlimited, etc.
If there is a core philosophy to my work it is this: Being interested is more important than being talented. The world is endlessly fascinating and I am never bored. Every story/project is unique, and the story is more important than I am. The editorial content or objectives of the client dictate my visual approach. What might be surprising is that this is especially true for the projects I have generated as "personal work", where my goal as a photographer is to be as transparent and visually economical as possible.
I do a lot of writing these days, another accident of my career. I was racing motorcycles as a hobby when Men's Journal called asking if I'd shoot someone else doing a first-person participatory piece on the sport. The only problem was that they couldn't find a writer willing to try it, so they asked me if I'd take a crack at writing. It was another thing I was totally unqualified for so of course I did it anyway. I have been writing 5-10 stories a year since then, including two regular motorcycle test columns. I enjoy it fully since it's always the writer who gets strapped into the racecar, or gets to jump out of the airplane while the photographer watches. The hard part was figuring out how to shoot while I'm writing the story and driving the racecar (yes, that's really me driving in all those P.O.V. photos)
So far I've written two books on photography: Portrait Photography Course, a university level textbook on portraiture and lighting and CIG Photography Essentials, a beginners guide to the basics of photography. I've also written the first in a series of novels for young readers based on the exploits of Malcolm Sterling, a young RAF pilot set during the Battle of Britain.
I'm shooting tons of video these days and I'm currently creating an "E" text book series of videos on the history of physics and the metaphysical implications of light and seeing.
Finally, I teach in the Photography and Imaging Department at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. My students perplex, annoy, and inspire me daily. I retaliate by feeding on the fertile marrow of their youthful enthusiasm.
Mark Jenkinson 2011