This is an interview with Mark Fields conducted in Marks studio by photography collector and lover Jasper Owens-Jones who owns several photographs by Mark Fields.
Jasper: Mark, thank you for taking time out of your schedule. I understand you once studied music, specifically classical music and the piano?
Mark Fields: Yes, I studied for about 8 or 9 years as a child. I can't say I was very good, but I loved music more than almost anything else at that point. Even through my years studying art I almost always had music on. When I was at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, I had freinds who were pianists studying at the Curtis Institute of Music. I think my classical roots both in music and painting are the reference point in all of my work and even in my most controversial imagery my classical thinking comes through in composition and technical matters.
Jasper: At one time you had established yourself well in Philadelphia as a painter. How did the permanent switch to photography come about ?
Mark Fields: I had exhibited for a long time as a painter but I fell out of love with it. I never really cared for the "messiness" factor of painitng. I used to love when I heard that Kandinsky said he could paint in a tuxedo. I related to the idea that for me creativity was not an emotional gesture but more of an intellectual one. . So when I picked up a camera I loved the mathemactical realionships of time, iso, aperture etc. . When digital came along and the precision with which one could work I knew I was home. Its was sort of like when Glenn Gould, the canadian painist, in the '60's said he needed to work in the studio splicing his work together, he had the same attempt to work towards perfection, and he could do it alone in a laboratory like environment. Thats exactly how I feel when I am working on an image, particularly now thats its not in a darkroom but on a computer. Its a very precise way of working and thinking.
Jasper: Who are your favorite photographers?
Mark Fields: Oh, that is so difficult. I love so many people. I really like Bill Brandt, Ron Van dongen for flowers, Horst. There really are so many, too many to name. I saw a gorgeous show in NY recently by Andrea Modica.
Jasper: Its very competitive out there, isn't it?!!
Mark Fields: Yes. There are so many photographers working in so many styles. It can be dizzying. While its a good thing to know about all the things that others are doing, eventually you just have to do your own work. Stylistic fads come and go. Its self defeating to try to get on any band wagon. Right now large color photography is in and "alternative processes" have become popular. I think that they really are not alternative at all. Alternative to what? Its sort of like tattoos and body piercings you see so much. Its almost a fad and you see so much of it how can it really be alternative?! (he laughs....)
Jasper: You seem to often work on different bodies of work at the same time. How do you keep all that straight in your head?
Mark Fields: Well, its not literally at the same time. There are threads of interest that I maintain. I simply add to the body of work when I have an idea that I think can contribute to it. I think its not a sprint but a very long slow run. I don't think I'll ever stop contributing to my major bodies of work although there might be big breaks in between.
Jasper: You are successful enough that you only do fine art photography. Do you consider yourself particularly lucky?
Mark Fields: Yes, of course. There are so many talented people and there really isn't very much room for everyone. I remember when I sold my first photograph for a thousand dollars. I thought, this is great!. It simply meant that I could devote all my time to my work and not have to squeeze it in between other money making jobs. Only relatively recently have I not been doing commercial work or digital retouching to make ends meet. Once in a while I'll take a job that interest me that is not my fine art work related. I am very grateful for the way things have turned out. I will say though, I have a modest lifestyle. I only ask for and want only a simple way of living. This helps of course in not needing as much money as I would if I needed a grand way of living. Making your income from the fact that people want to own your work is very ingratiating.
Jasper: Do you sell your work mostly in Galleries or directly to people.
Mark Fields: I have been lucky that people often contact me after they have seen my work. I have had work in some established Galleries. There is definitely an advantage to have a quality Gallery working with you. Its important to find the right ones. But if it is not the right fit it does not benefit either party. I like dealing directly with a collector. It just seems to have more meaning. But as I say that, I intend to sign up with some new galleries in 2008 and let them do the work!! laugh
Jasper: One last question. What do you see coming up next?
Mark Fields: I want to contribute more images to the main bodies of work that I have. I plan to work on an entirely new body of work but its till forming in my mind. I am planning to self publish a book of my work and I want to spend more time in NYC.
All of that should keep me busy.!!
Jasper: Good luck to you in all your ventures.
Mark Fields: Thank you for this opportunity.