MARK JAMES - STUDIO OF AMERICAN WEST PHOTOGRAPHY
About Mark James
"As I look at the photographs of Edward Curtis and Mark James, I'm really impressed to realize that they represent an almost unbroken span of time from Curtis' birth in 1868 to his death in 1954, and Mark James , born in 1955 to today. It's almost as if a torch was passed in that mid 50s era." − George Slade, author and photography historian
“When artists abjure our escalating technology, we commonly refer to them as romantics or even reactionaries. Paradoxically, Mark James is perhaps best described as a radical. The word 'radical' is derived from the Latin radix, meaning to go to the root or origin. And Mark James has surely returned to the roots of photography, to the pinhole camera, its peculiar magic, and the call of time.” – Jane Fudge, former Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum
What you really need to know about Mark James:
It’s all about the photographs and the journey to get them. In my view, if I don’t have a camera, there is little point in being out in the wilderness. Nature, for all her glory, usually requires payment from those who linger in the land for too long. She’s a cruel mistress and never misses an opportunity to test your limits. I have lost three tripods to the mountains! I usually venture into the wilderness alone and off-trail to find the object of my interest. Typically, the story behind my landscape photographs is as compelling as the picture itself.
So why bother? In a word, Beauty. The pursuit of beauty is worth all the effort and discomfort that the wilderness imposes. Socrates observed that great art contains three characteristics: beauty, truth, and goodness. Harvard trained psychologist, Howard Gardner, suggests keeping lifelong portfolios of beauty. That’s what I do. I bring home timeless photographs from places most will never see or experience. They are souvenirs that can be added to your lifelong portfolio.
My tool of choice is a simple wooden pinhole camera with electrical tape as a shutter. I use black & white film. By today’s standards, my camera and medium are positively outdated and primitive. A pinhole image requires long exposures and obscures details. The photograph is reduced to form and light. The pinhole camera may be considered a time machine and therefore, in my view, makes possible timeless pictures of the wilderness as it may have looked long ago.
That’s what I am all about: a man in the wilderness, camera in hand, searching for photographic mementos that can be added to your portfolio of beauty. And if you don’t have such a portfolio, given the current state of the world, now would be a good time to start one. Timeless beauty is one of those simple pleasures that we too often take for granted and lasts forever.
Mark with his Kodak Flashfun Hawkeye camera in 1962, 127 film, 4x4 format
Original cardboard box pinhole camera (1995 – 2002), 4x5 format
More retro now than in 1962! Zero Image pinhole camera, 120 film, 6x9 format