We had a chat with photographer Mark Hamilton about how he transitioned into his photography career, his preference for approaching work with spontaneity, and the fun challenge of creating imagery for clients spread across a broad range of industries.
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Jeanette. Jamie Dryden / Fabrik
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming a photographer, and to doing what you’re doing today?
I started my working life as an electrical apprentice way back when I first left school, a job I took not because I had some sort of a desire to work in the industry but purely to start working. In my late 20’s I travelled overseas and purchased my first camera. What started as a casual fascination soon became an obsession. These were pre internet days and I consumed every photography book and magazine I could get my hands on. I soon found myself working overtime to pay for my mounting film and lab bills. After a decade of weekend shooting and wondering what being a working photographer would be like, I decided to quit my day job. I studied full time and graduated from Wintec with a Bachelor Media Arts majoring in Photography in 2001.I set up my freelance business that same year.
How would you describe your photographic approach?
My personal work I would describe as loose but considered. I generally don’t spend days planning or waiting for hours for the conditions to be right. The work tends to be spontaneous, made in a fleeting moment that resonates with me in a way that usually reflects silence, memory and stillness. I tend to shoot in the darker months as the light in summer is too ‘fast food’ for me. My commercial practice is the complete opposite of my personal work, planned and controlled to the last detail with deadlines and definite outcomes required.
Your portfolio is diverse, do you have a favourite subject to shoot – and how important is it to change things up in your practice?
Running my business in Hamilton with a broad range of clients encompassing the educational, sport, agricultural, industrial, health and corporate sectors generally results in a wide range of subject matter to photograph. Because of this pool of clientele my work is more generalised with each shoot offering its own different set of challenges which I enjoy. Photographing within the creative industries, collaborating with artists, musicians and theatre is always a personal favourite. Travel is also high on my list of favourites, there’s nothing quite like getting out of your comfort zone in a different country and a different culture.
What goes into a commercial shoot? Could you give us a bit of an insight into the process of shooting for a commercial brief?
Initially there will be a meeting with the client and if the job has come from an agency their client may also be involved. This meeting will include the art director and/or account director, going over concepts and art direction. Discussions around location, talent and general production requirements are also discussed. If the job is away from the studio, a location recce is also undertaken to check out suitability and any curveballs that may arise on site on the day.
How much of your work is client work vs art-based practice?
Having come out of a long Auckland Covid lockdown last year and the uncertainty of the last few years, my client work has taken precedence. Though living through lockdowns has made me realise the importance of taking time for my own practice and having a good work/life balance. Going forward I need to make that a priority.
What shoot, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
In 2004, so early in my career I was surprised to be commissioned by The Waikato Museum of Art & History to undergo a year long project documenting the Somali Refugee community living in Hamilton, resulting in a 6 month exhibition called “Rare View”. Rare View earned a Creative Places award for the museum and a commendation from the United Nations Refugee Commission. Also during the first Covid lockdown in 2020 I found myself at home with one camera and one lens. I made images every day through the lockdown. These images becoming the basis of a solo show “The Liberation Of Limitation” at Ramp Gallery in Hamilton
How do you see your photography practice developing, what are your main aspirations for the next couple of years?
After 22 years of running my own commercial freelance business I am so happy to still be doing what I love, looking ahead I would like to begin to focus my efforts more towards a fine art practice.
Which other Aotearoa photographers, designers, or artists do you admire?
Photographically, I have always loved the documentary style of New Zealand photographers Bruce Connew, Mark Adams and Derek Henderson. Artists Sēraphine Pick and Gretchen Albrecht have always been favourites from my art school days. I would really like to acknowledge local artists who I have had the pleasure of collaborating with over the years, Graphic Designer Alan Deare (Area Design), Painter Jennie DeGroot and Hairdresser/Artist Jamie Dryden (Fabrik). Working with these people has certainly had an influence on my photography.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?
You can find more of my work at