Interview: Mark Escribano

Mark Escribano‘s photography work resembles traditional artist portraiture but deviates with it’s subtle narrative inflections and symbolic manipulations. His use of traditional in-camera photographic techniques and mostly natural light combined with his predisposition for celluloid over digital formats creates images infused with hidden complexity and poetic nuance that appear in some regards almost nostalgic.

His subjects are often artists or creators and his underlying theme is a psychological investigation and fascination with the purveyors of artistic endeavor and their companions and muses. Mark‘s work strives towards the poetic recreation (or reincarnation) of character through composition and lighting that blends subject with space and treats the importance of moment as equal with that of light and shadow.

Always in pursuit of the fleeting to capture a version of timelessness by showing space, subject and time as equals and one within his compositions.

Sometimes straight documentary but often softly constructed, his photographs shy away from the display of overt spectacle in favor of presenting amorphously profound, emotional and aesthetic inquiries.

Stylistically minimal with occasionally recurring motifs and an obsession with visual metaphor and storytelling, his work strikes the cords of timeless image making. Influenced by the poetic dexterity of masterful artists like Duane Michals and Maya Deren, Escribano‘s frames are sparse and controlled but leave windows wide open to a myriad of viewer interpretations.

Often exaggerating the outward depiction of the subject while intimately revealing them simultaneously, is an identifiable trademark within his near purist technical approach to portraiture. His images very much reflect the naiveté, excitement and romantic ambition of the earliest practitioners of the art of photography. A time when image creation was inspired largely by the photographic medium’s inherent challenges and the desire of it’s avid practitioners to define it, then exploit and innovate within it.

What inspires you?

The trying. New circumstances, inventive collaborations. Being challenged. That slim possibility of creating something that lasts somehow in someway. Images that reveal and hide enough in a balance that allows them to be both appreciated in the now and possibly inspiring in some way at some point. Everything’s been done but there’s endless possibilities in new combinations. When artists/creators achieve nuances and tones in their work that feel different or distinguishing, even in minor ways. People caring to attempt good work over that which is just satisfying or proficient.

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Actor Troy Garity on the set of the movie “Milwaukee/Minnesota.”

How would you describe your work?

I’m attempting symbolic and/or metaphoric portraiture. Something akin to environmental portraiture but with a lightly applied mythology around my subjects. The intention is to both reveal and elevate whoever’s in front of the camera. I try to create images that contain a bit of mystery along with some revelation. Of course a lot of the revelatory factor is based more on my own projections than any qualifiable reality. And it can also result from methods of overcoming challenges within shoot.

I favour the use of traditional in-camera techniques and using natural light as much as possible because I believe it aids in the creation of vague narrative interpretations within my images.

Duane Michals has always been my greatest influence because of his unique ability to produce such poetic images with mostly simple photographic techniques. It’s always somehow about story for me, real or fictional, which I think excessive technical perfection caters poorly to since it too often limits the connection between the image and the mind’s perception of reality.

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Musician Nelson London of ‘Gold’ with girlfriend Alissa Geraghty in Echo Park, LA.

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Actor Randy Russell on the set of Frankie Latina’s “Modus Operandi.”

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Actor Mark Borchardt inside the abandoned Grand Theater building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

What do you make of the photography scene in Los Angeles?

I try to follow it quite a bit and I think it’s really exciting and innovative in ways that somehow circumvent the overwhelming influence of technology. Partially this means that it can be so beautifully nostalgic and new all at once. The landscapes and light of California have maintained the influence they’ve always had on photographers here. I love work that involves spaces and places that can be perceived as someone’s sort of discovered paradise or at least rare and real space. Even if the enjoying of the beauty and uniqueness of it is more practical in a photograph than live. Basically there aren’t a lot of limitations here for the craft and the environment lends itself well to explorers…physical, environment and psychological. It’s somewhat practical to be impractical here since it’s a land populated largely by professional dreamers and schemers…all constantly crossing paths with each other.

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Actor Mark Metcalf posing with model Iskra at the Fortress in Milwaukee.

Whats the best advice you’ve been given?

The first real, working pro/art photographer I ever met was Jim Herrington. He accepted an invitation to speak at a class I was teaching to inner-city kids in Milwaukee one summer years ago. I remember, him being someone who also shot on film mostly, saying “You only need one shot.” The way he said it just sounded so knowing and revelatory to me. I always shoot very slowly and am always concerned about my ‘good to bad’ shot ratio. He’s a true, classic portrait artist. And what I interpreted this as was that

you should always, always go for what you perceive as that great shot, every time, but never concern yourself about whether you get more than one out of a session

because it’s maybe a bit hopeful/greedy and also unnecessary if you really get the rare one you should be going for.

 

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Nelson London and Gilbert Trejo of the band ‘Gold’ in Beverly Hills, California.

What can we expect to see from you in 2015?

I’m working towards doing more conceptual short form video and film work. I have couple of music videos coming out and I’m always doing more artist portraiture. I’m hoping to employ more planned-out approaches in photography. I’ve been inspired to attempt to re-incorporate some previous stylistic approaches I haven’t used for a while. And there’s a chance I may get more playful within my images. I’m just hoping to have more opportunities to freely create and work with more collaborators. I’m trying to hone in on my particular style and approach more but my curiosity and desire for new challenges often leads me towards new territory.