Born 1957 in Brooklyn, New York, Mark Hamilton’s interest in photography began with hours looking at the great picture magazines of the sixties: Bazaar, Life, Look, and Vogue. The first camera he owned was Canon rangefinder purchased with Christmas money from his parents at Camera Barn on Broadway in NYC. A family vacation to Germany in the seventies started with the purchase of an Exakta VX1000 camera in Frankfurt. The next few months were spent documenting his travels in Europe while visiting his uncle’s family stationed in Germany with the Army. While pursuing studies in architecture at Brooklyn Technical High School, an instructor suggested a career in photography stating, “that you have had more experiences in your life at sixteen than most people who are in their thirties.” Maybe it was the suggestion of a life path from an authority figure, or just stubbornness that led him to join the Marine Corps, flee home, and the turmoil of parents going through a divorce. Purchasing a Asahi Spotmatic camera at a pawnshop while waiting at a bus stop in Okinawa, Japan, his off duty time was filled with taking and printing photographs at the base hobby shop. The purchase of several cameras in Japan led to the acquisition of a Nikon F2AS professional camera. His next duty station was Marine Barracks in Rota, Spain where he spent the next four years teaching himself lighting and studio skills. His photos were spotted on the walls of the base dining facility where he worked as a cook. Transferred to the base photographic unit and as a self-taught photographer led a team of 22 photographers in various photographic assignments with the Naval Atlantic Fleet Audio Visual Command. He returned to New York City after the military enrolled in the new photo program at Parsons School of Design led by Benedict J. Fernandez, the former personal photographer of Martin Luther King Jr. Mark left Parsons after one year to pursue a professional career. His photo work for the schools public relations department led to assignments with Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. Fernandez offered a few classes for him to teach at the New School for Social Research to financially assist his pursuits. Early assignments were for Cole of California with Eleanor Lambert Public Relations and New York Apparel News. It was his work with editor Bridget Foley at Apparel News Group that caught the eye of her new employer Woman’s Wear Daily. Foley’s introduction to the staff at WWD opened the doors to assignment work at WWD, W & M magazines and work with Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, Cynthia Rowley, Malcon Forbes, Frank Stella, Ralph Lauren, Michael Graves, Carolina Herrera, Norma Kamali, among others. Shooting the New York Collections with editors Etta Froio, Bobbi Queen, Bridget Foley, Ruth LaFerla, and Karyn Monget provided an education in fashion that led to opening a commercial studio and the confidence to explore the market in Milan and published work with Italian publications Amica & Annabella. Representation followed from the Asian markets when he signed with MEGAPRESS in Tokyo. Mark was asked to teach at the School of Visual Arts by Photography Chair, Alice Beck-Odette while maintaining the studio in NYC. Hamilton left New York City after maintaining the studio for over a decade. A move to North Carolina began a change to personal projects and a return to the study of fine arts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; pursuing primarily painting at first, along with work in Religion and Women’s Studies. Mark’s first fine art projects debuted at the Blue Pony Gallery in Charlotte. He received an invitation from the Union of Students Artists to speak about his work at Winthrop University. The talk that evening led to an invitation by Phil Moody to teach at Winthrop University in a part-time capacity as a lecturer. Several years later Mark started teaching in a full-time role and is presently a tenured Professor of Fine Arts at Winthrop University. Mark pursues personal fine arts projects and collaborative projects (www.jenniferandmarkhamilton.com) with photographer Jennifer Hamilton, along with commercial projects for select clientele.
INTERVIEW BY JAMIE COTTON:for more info please visit http://www.baja.org/sensuousline/sline0798/jcotton.htm
J.C.: Are you trying to convey an emotion or capture an emotion through your photography?
M.H.: Convey an emotion. Basically, all of the pieces shown came out of two recent shows. They convey my state of mind–even the titles of the shows. One (title)was “Introspections, Intuitions, and Interrogations,” which was how I felt over the last three to four years. After I left New York, I took an introspective look at myself, trying to express things that I knew intuitively, but as a visual artist, I couldn’t verbalize. The interrogative was the many questions I had. With many of the projects I work on, I don’t necessarily know what the questions are, but they’re revealed through the work. Three or four months later, I can look back and see the state of mind I was in and totally understand where the image came from. But there isn’t a deliberate attempt to look for any meaning at the moment.
J.C.: Explain to me your process, as far as working with the model.
M.H.: Usually, all the people I work with are people I’ve run into just in my daily life–maybe someone who works at a book store or someone I’ve met through a mutual friend. Usually, it (choosing a model) comes out of three or four conversations I’ve had with that person. I’m not really interested in the physical attributes of that person. I’m much more interested in where their head is. I try to find some type of bond–a similarity in our lives and experiences. Through a dialogue, we discover this bond. To be honest with you, after working for so many years with models, now most of the work I do isn’t with models.
J.C.: Why is it important to you to convey an emotional state through a photograph?
M.H.: I can look at other people’s art work and get a sense of their emotional state, and a relationship is formed. Sometimes, as an artistic person, you can feel very alienated from the world in general, and, to a certain extent, that kinship or bond you feel with other people’s work lets you know you’re not alone.
J.C.: So you want to form a bond with the viewer?
M.H.: Yes, and hopefully they’ll experience some of those same emotions and disband some of that isolation that we all feel in this world.
J.C.: Earlier, you mentioned a spiritual sense within your work. Explain more about what you meant by that.
M.H.: Like a lot of people, I don’t profess to be of any particular religion, but I do have a great sense of the mysterium tremendum, “the great mystery.” It’s there and we all experience it. Also, there’s another quote about art that says it’s about learning to find the God within your self. There is that great mystery inside all of us, and that is the spiritual.
J.C.: What is it that is essential about working with the nude figure in order to create the idea of the spirit?
M.H.: I think that mostly we judge people by what their clothes are. We form preconceptions about what their values are, as well as what their tastes are, their education level, etc. You can’t do that if there are no clothes, so there’s a certain purity in that. Basically, you’re stripped down to just yourself.
J.C.: What, essentially, did you discover about yourself?
M.H.: I’ve discovered a lot of things. I like myself a lot more. Once I moved down here and made the transition, I finally became comfortable considering myself an artist.
J.C.: …and a teacher?
M.H.: Yes, an educator. I taught part-time while I was in New York, and I enjoyed that, but I enjoy it down here more. In New York, I was teaching craft only, and now with all the experiences I’ve had, I teach the craft as quickly as possible and try to instill more in my students. I believe it was Chekhov who said, “If you want to work on your art, work on your life.” So that’s what I try to get them to do. It’s all about finding out what you’re afraid of and overcoming that. It starts and ends with you–not money or success or anything else. Find yourself through your life and your art, and find the God that dwells there.
Bio from markhamiltonstudio.com, please view for more images and exhibitions.