Exclusive: 10 Q's For Stacey Mark
Stacey Mark is a New York City based photographer who got her start as an assistant for Steven Klein and as photo director for Nylon Magazine before picking up the camera and stepping behind the lens. We asked the talented photographer ten questions in order to get to know her better.
1: What sparked your interest in fashion photography?
I grew up in the era of the Supermodels – they were everywhere from the supermarket checkout to MTV. I started buying all the magazines, tearing them out, choosing a favorite model (Kristin McMenamy), bleaching my hair and removing my eyebrows (note: they don’t grow back). Then it became about the photographers and I sat in the photography section of the bookstore for hours. At that time Helmut Newton was shooting for Vogue, Robert Mapplethorpe was all over the news, and Ellen von Unwerth was a presence on MTV "House of Style." Those names led to a million more on the book shelves. Will also admit to being obsessed with Madonna everything and hiding her SEX book in my closet.
2: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
There are films, photographs, books and music that I obsess over and love, but my main inspiration comes from the women I shoot. I’ve been lucky enough to meet women that I’ve formed an instant connection with and for me that makes the best photographs. That’s why I tend to shoot the same subjects multiple times; that relationship is inspiring for both of us.
3: What are your thoughts on analog vs. digital photography in your work?
The first camera I ever used was a Polaroid. Then, in addition to that, I started shooting with a point and shoot 35mm camera. Those cameras produced what I considered ‘my work.’ I was hesitant to use digital because I was afraid that I couldn’t achieve the same aesthetic. The more I shoot digital, the more I understand how to use it and how to incorporate it into my portfolio. My approach hasn’t changed even though the medium has. That said, my heart is still with my Polaroid and film work. All of the work in the Milk Gallery is film.
4: Can you talk about your transition from being a photo editor at Nylon to creating your own photos?
I never considered being a photographer until the moment I picked up a camera. I was the photo editor at Nylon for 5 years. I had a lot of creative freedom, which I loved. I worked with some incredible established photographers and was able to support a lot of talented young photographers. Somewhere between boredom and a fluke, I started taking my own photos. Not only was I able to shoot for Nylon, I was booking jobs for other magazines including three cover shoots. I shot myself right out of Nylon and found myself a full time photographer. I still love a lot of the work I made at that time; there was a purity and excitement that came from the safety net of a full time job.
5: Why do you focus on women in your photography?
That’s a good question and people ask me that all the time. Growing up I always experienced complicated relationships with women. Most of my close friendships were with men, gay and straight, and that’s my comfort zone. I find something liberating and powerful forming relationships with the women I shoot and it’s opened me up to forming stronger female relationships in the rest of my life. In terms of men, I had a great time shooting Devonte Hynes, the musician behind Blood Orange, so I’m open to finding more great male subjects.
6: Your subjects appear so carefree and vulnerable in your photos. What’s the role of intimacy and nudity in your photography?
The combination of carefree and vulnerable is something I share with my subjects. I think it’s that conflict that creates that feeling of intimacy and I think it’s a compliment when my work is called intimate. Nudity in my photography is something that happened naturally, it wasn’t planned. The photos I was shooting were "sexy" aka lingerie or lingerie inspired and I think it grew from there. I’m honestly not sure what my first nude shoot was…. I am inspired by a lot of nude imagery and in the world of fashion photography it’s a relief that photographs aren’t dated as soon as the trends change.
7: Sometimes you approach a shoot with a specific vision in mind and sometimes, as with the images you submitted to Milk Underground, you let the shoot come to you. Can you describe your creative process and shooting style?
Both Jennah on the pink float and the ‘Baseball’ series were approached with a character in mind. I knew I wanted Jennah to have that ’60s hairstyle before that shoot, down to the yellow bow. The baseball series was thought out in advance because I was shooting for a magazine’s "sports issue," and this was the cheeky ’80s movie direction I took. She is wearing a genuine vintage baseball uniform tailored by the stylist. I wanted them to read as the girl next door. They’re naked and their bodies are obviously amazing but they’re smiling.
‘Nola in the Woods’ is literally Nola in the woods! That is a shoot that came to me entirely when we got to the location. She and I hung out, gossiped, came across some great spots and looked for the most beautiful light. We didn’t have hair and makeup with us – there was a stylist for part of the shoot but ultimately it was just her and I figuring it out as we went along. I shot film so I wasn’t even sure what I got until the film came back a few days later.
8: How do you decide on shooting locations? Like how the baseball series was shot in your parents’ backyard, and Nola in the woods was shot in public parks between 6 and 8 am?
Without a budget and a permit, shooting a naked baseball series on an actual baseball diamond was impossible. We could have snuck into one but I knew the nudity wasn’t worth the risk. My parents live less than 2 hours from NYC and I’ve shot at their house multiple times. Instead of approaching the baseball player as a professional on the field, I thought about her at camp in the vein of a 1980s movie. With that version in mind, I could put her in the grassy, woodsy location and have it make sense to me. It became less literal, which I preferred.
The Nola shoot location is a park that I knew would be mysterious and perfect for her. The light at 6am is beautiful but it’s also the safest time to get away with shooting nudity in a public place. The Park Ranger had the best day of his life.
9: Who are three women you’d like to photograph in your career?
The Robert Altman movie ‘3 Women’ is one of all time my favorites, it’s inspired me more than I can express in words. For that reason I’ll say his three women: Shelly Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule.
10: What’s your latest project?
I have so many ideas but nothing that I want to reveal at the moment.
You can purchase Stacey Mark’s work here