FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER #55: Mark Ivkovic
Hi, my name is Mark Ivkovic and I’m a photographer currently based in London, England. My professional work is primarily that of portraiture based around personal style, lifestyle and stories. I used to wear the label of fashion photographer but to be honest fashion photography very rarely interests me, I find the idea of only wearing what someone else decides is “in” a little offensive. Somewhere along the line I realised that what I do care about and what I do wish to express in my work is the style of the people I work with and what stories that tells. This is what drives me to create the portrait work I do, finding truth in the people I photograph, everyone has something to teach us if we give them space and time to reveal it.
I’d always wanted to work for Walt Disney as an animator as a kid. I lived for cartoons as a young child and I guess that love became my dream. That didn’t really pan out for a number of reasons. This being before the internet and easy access to animation software, Oh yeah and the fact I lived in a small Yorkshire village a million miles away from LA. I came to photography a little later in life via a desire to document what I did. A very naive journal of random snapshots. It slowly dawned on me that I’d begun using a camera to express what I had previously in drawing. So although I didn’t get to create epic tales with Walt, I still get to tell my stories in a visual way.
When I don’t have a camera in my hand, I guess the easy answer would be it’s still within arms reach. As a less flippant answer I run, dabble in the kitchen a little, I still draw, I spend time educating myself and often just go and get lost in the forest behind my house along with my pet Whippet.
Your personal story with photography in 12 words
Existing by doing what I love, trying to make a meaningful work.
That leads on to what I want to achieve, simple really I just have a desire to create work that means something to me. Both personally and professionally. Therein lies one of my biggest obstacles, the dichotomy of my professional client work and my more personal projects. It’s something I’ve struggled with over the years and in the end I realised I just have to suck it up and let the paycheque be the inspiration sometimes. Those are the jobs that allow me the freedom to then go out and create work that I feel has something to say. My superpower? the ability to eat breakfast at anytime of the day, If I need to be awake at 4am to get to a job then I’m on the porridge and out the door. Trust me as a working photographer this is an essential skill. My biggest weakness? I guess self-doubt. You know, the fear, the self loathing, the gremlins that whisper to you at 2am in the morning. It can be a very lonely place making a living as a photographer so you need to make sure those conversations you have with yourself don’t destroy your confidence. I’ve spoken to a number of creatives with similar feelings on this, outwardly we put on our “pro” faces but inside we’re kind of a mess. Within that though I think resides the sign that the work you’re creating is valid, if a part of you is saying it sucks then that’s potentially because it means something to you personally and the fear is that no-one else will “like” it.
You ask the craziest thing I ever did as a photographer?
I don’t know, I’ve probably had a good number of “dicey” situations but I’m still here with all my biological pieces still attached and working so everything worked out. My lust for cameras has had me in trouble once though, lesson learnt the hard way on that one.
Where is the barrier between photographer and subject?
This is a really interesting and broad question, something I could happily lose an evening and a bottle of wine debating. I feel many people imagine that when they work with a subject, especially in portrait work, that they somehow make the camera invisible. Yes that is the dream we have but essentially the camera is always going to be the elephant in the room. We all know it’s there and that it is going to be used to document what is in front of it. The camera is the barrier and it’s our job to lessen the effect that it has through our skills and experience. Can work be made that reflects what may have been had the camera not been there? That’s a little like “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it still make a noise?”.
My bag might come as a little surprise for those who may have known my work for a while. The little German red dot wearing cameras have all gone. Yup all of them. Without getting into details the M240 I had just killed my love for the M system. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Leica as I’ve shot some great work with them over the years but that chapter is over for now. I’ve always struggled with my own analogue / digital dilemma. I adore film, I learnt on film and I appreciate the difference it brings to me personally. However I also live in the real world and work with digital because quite frankly it’d be impossible not to. Clients demand instant feedback and rapid turn around. Plus the 100% knowledge that on a mission critical job the images are good and in the bag makes everyones life easier. That is where the Hasselblad comes in. I have a deep love of design and in particular of Functionalist design. Things that are designed to do what they need to do, in a simple and elegant way. Many (if not most ) of my possessions are decided upon via this kind of philosophy. My love of the Lumu in part comes from this philosophy also, simple, elegant and functional design. The 503CWD satisfies both my analogue and my digital brains while still employing the same picture taking process. It is the perfect tool for me at this moment in my career and allows me the freedom to practically “build” the camera into what I need it to do for each job. Fast paced client studio shoot? Throw on the digital back a 45 degree prism finder and power winder and I have a medium format digital beast. Personal work while travelling? film back and waist level finder (as shown) gives me a fairly compact and light weight kit to throw in my bag. Also in the bag, notebooks, business cards, lens cloth with an image on that I produced for a commercial client. Colorchecker / Grey card (which I’m hoping to dump once the new colour temp Lumu Power lands in my lap). Also my dirty little secret of a Fuji X100 original Black, plus the killer B&W compact Ricoh along with other little essentials.
The tools in my bag are often very considered choices, I’ve used practically every type of camera, I’ve worked with most major systems and experienced the best they offer. In the end it comes down to what works for the individual, personal style isn’t created through the tool you use, it’s what enables you to do your work to your best. The camera is the amplifier to you photographic voice not the script. The tools I choose are ones which make me work for the image, they give nothing for free and that harks back to my distrust of anything which is easy. I trust my kit to do what I expect it to do, if the focus is off, the exposure is wrong etc. I’m much happier it being 100% my fault than the camera screwing it up. That way I can really allow myself the freedom to create without worrying about the kit, I rely on it to do as I ask rather than to make decisions itself.
My kit for a parallel universe?
A parallel universe where I only create work for myself? The Hasselblad with a huge stock of film, notebook, comfortable shoes & an open mind. Most anything else I can live without (at least for a year), well my aeropress might have to get smuggled into the bag too.
Advice to fellow photographers?
Quit trying to win a yoga. Make your photos, those are the only ones that really matter. Learn light, print your work and don’t drink the camera industry Kool-aid. Ego is the enemy.
Adams, Leibowitz, Soth or Parr?
Hmmm, so I appreciate all of their work. Martin Parr I actually worked a job in Oxford while he was also working, lovely guy but to be honest I don’t “enjoy” his work. I appreciate the message and the idea but it isn’t something I seek out. Adams is like a Grandfather to all photographers but again landscapes aren’t really my thing, I do own a heavy hardbound Adams collection but it’s a little dusty. I appreciate the work of Don McCullen but his personal work actually frightens me, it has a darkness to it which reflects the vileness of the world which he has witnessed and the fact it still shows in his work is a sign that he is very much tormented by it. I’m a long time lover of the work of Anton Corbijn and Anders Petersen. Such feeling and love, such connection and honesty. Beautiful in a way but perhaps not art for the wall. Often it’s the photographer as a person that interests me not so much the individual works. The message they are trying to convey, the struggles they have endured. After visiting the Helmut Newton archive in Berlin I was an emotional wreck for three days. and don’t get me started on Tim Hetherington.
But you’re only allowing me four names for right now, so here goes;
Roversi for his beautiful understanding of emotion, Muirhead for his personal honesty and heartfelt desire to understand himself through his work. J.R. for staying true to his roots while trying to change the world with photography and lastly Platon for being one of the few to somehow follow the beat of his own drum whilst creating honest work that crosses the boundaries of the commercial world.
I’ll add a few words about the work I’ve shared with this piece, it encompasses the dichotomy I talk of. Some is assignment work, some commissioned campaigns, some portfolio work and then some which are part of personal projects. I’m happy to see similarities in them which somehow hints at what I’m attempting to say with my work in whatever context that work will be shown.
Now go make pictures and share them wth the world. Show us your voice and tell your story.