Leaf Credo 80
"What I like about the work I'm doing now is that it spans many categories of photography -- from landscape to fashion."Mark Seliger
Mark Seliger's work for Rolling Stone magazine produced some of its most memorable covers and established his reputation. His work for Vanity Fair, GQ and others have produced more famous portraits of famous people, ranging from iconic 90s musicians such as Kurt Cobain to President Obama to the Dalai Lama, earning him the title of "the leading portrait photographer of his day."
Mark's schedule is booked full, so we were grateful for the opportunity to speak with him. He has just picked up and started working with the Mamiya Leaf Credo 60 camera system, and we were interested to hear what he thought.
"My cameras are like paint brushes -- I use different cameras -- both film and digital. While 35mm increasingly offers a great range of possibilities, the thing about medium format is that it gives you a different sort of connection to the work. With medium format you can get lens compression for a shallower depth-of-field -- which is key in portrait photography. In film, medium format gives you a better quality negative. With digital, it’s similar -- you get better resolution and quality of capture.
"I choose a camera system for its reliability and simplicity. Right now we’re trying out Mamiya Leaf. We like to keep our work streamlined and simple, because with our tight schedule, we don’t have the room to deal with equipment issues. Also, I understand that Mamiya Leaf has a great reputation for its film-like results.
"Actually I'm still really interested in print making from film. I find that to be incredibly exciting and what I signed up for. What I like about film is that it keeps the focus on the relationship between the subject and me; it's something that I learned from coming up in the editorial world. For me, above all, it's an intuitive process of engaging with people, focusing on the relationship, which is not only about what it's looking like in the camera. With digital, I try to shoot portraiture the same way I would have shot with film.
"I like to take my time to decide which pictures are best. Often you have to step back and just let the photos go for awhile, which is something which historically film has let you do -- the edit takes place after the fact, not during. It will be interesting to experiment also with Capture One Pro on these digital images from the Credo system and see if it's more like the darkroom experience.
"These are the essential things: Interaction. Imagination. How things evolve and become more sophisticated. Your eye and the time you put into it.
"When you're doing a series of photographs, digital is a very helpful tool for being able to know when to move on and have some security about what you've captured. In any case, you've got to stay in touch with that knowledge and stay present to what's going on.Mark Seliger
Two recent articles in the New York Times have focused on Mark's work as a songwriter and musician, and we asked him about the relationship between his work as a photographer and a musician.
"There is a certain synergy between the music I make and the photographs I shoot. What's great is that the music gives me a chance to step away from photography entirely and be engaged differently with another group of people. With music, it's more purely like playing than anything else, so you're really always in the moment. (With photography there's just a whole lot more preparation before you get to that point.)
"But it still has to do with how people react to each other. There are similarities between my song writing and the story telling I do as a photographer. Writing a song, I'm drawing from memory and imagery to create lyrics. And that includes some of what I've experienced from behind the camera which has helped me to build a visual vocabulary that can end up as a line in a song.
"It might describe something I've been through, or just that it sounds good, something really familiar, a taste you remember. In both music and in photography, I believe that if I'm affected by what I'm creating, then someone else will connect with it that way, too.
Besides making music, Mark is also an author of many books .The theme of his first book was on Holocaust survivors, for which he worked in a documentary style, to record something that he described as being "meaningful to pass on -- which is at the heart of being a photographer."