Mark Gordon – PhotoArt
Career Path - Schooling - Training
I have been doing photography for over 45 years. I was first intrigued with photography while attending Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. I was in the Merchandising and Marketing program and needed to take some electives and one that I chose was photography. I loved it and have been doing some form of photography since. During my FIT days I spent a lot of time in MOMA (and other museums) viewing all forms of art; photography, print, painting, sculpture, film , art books, from ancient to present-- all of which helped develop my “eye.” Of course I was also photographing everything in sight (most found its way to the trash bin).
After graduating from FIT I was subject to the draft. This was during the Vietnam era so I enlisted for three years. As an enlistee I could choose a military vocation and I chose to be a military photographer. After basic training I was sent to Fort Monmouth, N. J. to army photo school, a four month program. I graduated from that program top in my class and was assigned to the NATO command in Heidelberg, Germany. There I photographed portraits of officers and dignitaries, parades, field games, grip & grins (award presentations with smiles & handshakes), and also did extensive lab work or whatever was required. This also afforded me an opportunity to travel Europe and make my own photographs. The GI bill paid for the next stage of my schooling/training.
After being an Army photographer for three years I returned to NYC and attended and graduated in commercial photography from the Germain School of Photography. The course for me was one year and I earned a commercial photography certificate. Being back in NYC once again enabled me to take advantage of all the museums, art galleries, libraries, theaters, etcetera.
Following that I moved to Washington, D. C. for a year. I worked there in a photo lab, Image Inc. I made prints and processed film for some of the top photographers in the area. It was invaluable to “see” other’s composition, lighting, vision and quality of exposure (digital didn’t happen for another 12-15 years). While in D.C. I volunteered my photo skill at the National Zoo taking photos of animals, people, events and exhibits for their monthly newsletter/booklet (I did 4 issues).
In the early 70's a friend of mine who was a burgeoning film maker asked me to come to L.A. and shoot production stills for a low budget film he was trying to make (he knew I would do it for practically nothing). I packed up my car and took a road trip across the U.S. and through Seattle, WA, where I visited a friend before reaching L.A. That job and the film never panned out.
After a couple of months of being in Los Angeles I decided that I would give Seattle a try. I landed a job there within 3 weeks as an assistant photographer at a commercial photo studio, Photography Northwest, Inc. I was with Photography Northwest, Inc. for 16 and ½ years. It was a two person studio (the owner/photographer and me/assistant) when I started there. I did everything from taking care of equipment, processing film (B&W and color), printing B&W, making deliveries, getting coffee, sweeping up and assisting during shoots. I was allowed and encouraged to do my own test shooting, experimenting and building my portfolio with studio equipment (needless to say on my own time). I learned a lot from the owner, not only product photography but the business end. A year and a half later I became a photographer there and we hired a third person as an assistant. After a year of shooting for established clients and polishing my portfolio I got up the courage to try to bring in additional clients based on my portfolio. It is not easy and very humbling trying to solicit work. I was persistent and was rewarded with work from a large department store and then from an ad agency. My career was moving in a positive direction.
We started doing more catalogs, newspaper ads, agency work and I was even doing fashion photography so we hired another assistant and a full-time lab person. One of the assistants became a photographer with my guidance and this freed up the owner to concentrate on the business. I became more involved in managing the studio and a few more staff were hired full and/or part-time. The growth of the studio/business was mainly from work from large clients like The Bon Marche (now Federated, Inc./Macy’s) with over 40 stores in 5 northwest states, Frederick & Nelson (now out of existence) with over 15 stores, Eddie Bauer, Co. and Nordstrom’s. Towards the end of the 1980s the industry was changing and The Bon Marche had become our biggest client. In order to save money, businesses were expanding their in-house advertising/marketing departments, moving towards desk- top publishing, and consolidating and merging with other businesses. In this environment The Bon Marche/Fed. Inc. decided to bring photography in-house and to eventually not use any outside studios.
In 1989 the Senior V.P. of marketing at The Bon Marche/Fed. Inc. asked me if I wanted to join the company and start, develop, and manage their in-house marketing/advertising photography studio. It was a tough decision whether to stay with Photography Northwest, Inc. without our biggest account or to take this new opportunity with many interesting possibilities. In 1989 I accepted their offer and was hired by The Bon Marche/Fed. Inc. It turned out to be an excellent decision and I loved every minute of working there for 19 years. I remained there until I retired in 2008.
I built the advertising studio slowly but steadily. When I first started I was able to hire 4 staff members. Management and I agreed that we would start by doing newspaper ads only and then go from there. The first thing we did was find a suitable space for the first studio, design it and have it built (I/we designed 6 or 7 new studios during my tenure as head of advertising photography). Then we had to purchase equipment (cameras, lighting, backgrounds, and etcetera), film, and Polaroid film and hire an outside lab to work for our needs. Three or so months later we were ready to make our first newspaper ad photograph. Within a year we were doing all the newspaper photography. The company was starting to see their new in-house photo studio pay off.
By the end of the next two years we were photographing all the catalogs. We were shooting product and fashion. We grew in size with an on-sight studio and an off-sight fashion studio and with an increased staff. By this time I had 3 managers (fashion studio manager, product studio manager and a production manager who dealt with styling, models, locations and sets) and a staff of 23 people. I was managing more and shooting less. I was O.K. with that and management was very pleased, excited and proud of the studio. Bottom line though, the company was impressed with the money they were saving. A large part of the studio budget went to film, Polaroid and processing. So, I perceived another opportunity and proposed that we start photographing digitally. It was pretty much unheard of in the early 1990s for a department store to be on the cutting edge of technology. But I was fortunate to have a forward thinking boss with an excellent track record. Fashion was out of the question at that time but product could be done. I not only had to sell the budget people on equipment (new very expensive cameras and the latest and greatest Apple computing technology) but also the art department, art directors in particular. You all know the outcome of digital. It was a little cumbersome at first but within the next two years we were doing all product photos (shoes, housewares, bedding, cosmetics, jewelry - everything). As digital cameras, equipment and computers rapidly advanced, became more sophisticated and smaller and faster we started capturing fashion photography. Now we were totally digital, no more film and processing. The return of investment in the studio was a huge success for the company.
The Bon Marche being one division within Federated was singled out for its photo studio and we did many tours and answered many questions for our sister divisions. We started photographing special catalogs (The Wedding Book, Home Sale, White Sale, Shoe Book) for the corporate office in NYC that all the divisions used. This was the height of the studio with 35-40 full time and freelance staff. This was constant until 2002/3 when divisions were consolidating and companies were being bought and sold. Budget cutbacks became more common and the studio needed to do its share and downsize. The company shifted strategy by doing more TV and on-line photos and less newspaper ads and catalogs. In 2008 Federated/Macy’s closed our division and I retired. It was a great photo studio; we did excellent work and had a good time doing it. I was very lucky to meet and work with many extremely talented people.
Over the years I have taken many, many photographs, both advertising & commercial work and art/design photography. I always felt I was an artist whether photographing a shoe or an abstract image. Even though I say I am retired when people ask, I am not retired from making “art” photographs and never will be. I am now spending more time making art/design photographs and managing my personal work.
I have had a number of shows over the years. One of my most popular shows is called “Mannequins: Head to Toe.” The mannequin series consists of over 250 images. I find mannequins fascinating from various aspects. One aspect is that they are very stylistic and unique in their human-like features. They also tell us (me) about ourselves by the way they are dressed and embellished. Most of all, for me, they make interesting shapes, forms and designs whether clear and sharp focus, in a window/glass reflection, in part or in whole and also in my "reductionism" style. Another show I had (Sept. 2015) is called “Cross Section” a show of photographs from various (a cross section of) series/albums/studies that I have made. In 2016 I showed twice in a gallery, once large (4-5 foot range) prints on canvas from my “Floral” series and again large prints from a selection of “Abstract Reductionism” photographs. In March 2017 I showed work printed on aluminum. Later in 2017 I will be on view at a gallery in London. In Nov. 2017 I will be back showing in Seattle.
I am currently and continually working on a number of photographic series, albums, studies and shows including: Modern/Classic Photographs; Random Energy; Abstract Images, Cityscapes, City Post-It-Notes, City Fenced In and more. My "Reductionism" style is a process that I have developed by using certain computer program tools. My reductionism series include: Media Lips; Clouds; Birds; Abstractism; Floral; Cityscapes; Impressionism; Post-It-Note; Concrete Color; Impressionism and others. And yes, I photograph exclusively digitally.
The way I work/take/make my photographs is to create the image in my eye and lens before capturing (the file). All the photographs are digital images, un-retouched and minimally cropped (if at all) except for the “Reductionism” series (which I do manipulate to get the desired result). I call this process “Reductionism” because it is like a chef cooking the perfect sauce by reduction, simmering the ingredients until the taste and consistency is wonderful. I keep reducing the photo till the image tastes perfectly in my “eye.”
Please view my work on my web site and on Instagram
Instagram @ PhotoArt
There are many, many, and I mean many, inspiring, visionary, innovative and thought-provoking photographers since pinhole boxes/cameras projected images upside down on the opposite end of the box (look up pinhole camera on the web and make one, then blow your classmates minds not to mention your instructors). Following are 5 (I could list more but won’t) photographers that influenced me and every time I see their work I am amazed all over again. I am also amazed at how many other photographers of all ages, backgrounds and locations around the world are producing excellent photographic images (even your friends and neighbors and relatives with smart phones). You should discover your own favorite inspirational photographers from museums, art galleries, print media, classmates, internet and wherever.
Alfred Stieglitz – 1864-1946 Georgia O'Keeffe
Stieglitz was probably the first to do selfies (self portraits). He also photographed clouds which inspired me to photograph them also (see my cloud series). He was also a great promoter of photography as fine art.
Edward Steichen – 1879-1973 Gloria Swanson
I think of Steichen as one of, if not the first, fashion photographers, photographing for Vogue. He was also the first to open an art gallery devoted to photography in New York City. His portraits were very inspiring and cutting edge at the time.
Man Ray - 1890-1976 Violin d'Ingres
Man Ray was an all-around visual artist, experimenter and leading avant-garde artist. His “Photograms” (items placed directly on photographic paper and exposed to light) are unique, stylistic, amusing and visually graphic (figure out how to do them, maybe digitally, and take them to your level). My favorite image of his, which made a never-to-be-forgotten impression on me, is “Le Violon D’lngres” 1924 – title in French because he lived in France.
Richard Avedon – 1923-2004 Donyale Luna
Going to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC in the mid- to- late ‘60s, Avedon was considered the “god” of fashion photography. Besides that, I loved his B&W, bold, graphic style which influenced me immensely.
Andy Warhol – 1928-1987 Ladies and Gentlemen
Warhol was the quintessential innovator in the visual arts. Of course he is most famous for his “Campbell Soup Cans,” and a big but for me is his portraiture of the rich and famous and his love for experimentation.
Wow, did I say I was only going to list five? How silly of me. There are so many more that I could have listed instead of those. So here are some more, names only (this is the tip of the iceberg). Check them out and the ones that your librarian, Cathy Reilly, has listed in this guide (see Great Photographers). Write down why you like the photographers, find them interesting and how they are compelling (design, technique, style, thought provoking, perspective, abstract, pop, impressionistic, etc.).
Anne Geddes, Imogene Cunningham, Walker Evans, Irving Penn, Eugene Atget, Jerry Uelsmann, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, Annie Leibovitz, Jeremy Cowart, Michael Kenny, Chuck Close and so many more.
Please view my work on my web site and on Instagram
St. Louis Community College Libraries
Florissant Valley Campus Library
Forest Park Campus Library
Meramec Campus Library
Wildwood Campus Library