An interview with Mark Wegner follows the exhibit images
Mark Wegner Interview
VSonoma: Welcome Mark and could you give us an overview of your current show at VSonoma Gallery?
Mark Wegner: I titled the show “Found Abstraction”. It’s a descriptor I use for abstract scenes (be it man-made or by nature) that are photographed as they appear. Found Art in a sense! With practically every image I shoot, I do utilize some post production — primarily for perspective adjustments , color corrections, B&W conversion and of course cropping. As a side note, part of the challenge and fun of chasing down straight abstraction is the hunt itself.
VSonoma: How did you initially get interested in Photography?
Mark Wegner: As a Fine Art major in school, I remember attending one particular photography exhibit in Los Angeles, CA that featured several of the great west coast landscape photographers. Ansel Adams, Edward and Brett Weston, John Sextant and Galen Rowell to name a few. Standing right in front of their large format, technically perfect 'straight prints' I was dumbstruck and immediately in awe of the work.
Fast-forward seven or eight years after entering the design field, I shared my first real studio with a professional photographer. Working with him on various assignments of mine (and his) I became enthralled with what seemed like “the magic act” of exposing film and then producing a print. During this time I was fortunate to receive a crash course in the technical aspects from him as well as from other photographers — constantly looking over their shoulders, asking (usually lame) questions and occassionally getting some hands on tutoring.
VSonoma: ...and when did you serious about it?
Mark Wegner: The seriousness occurred over several years as I became more critical about the images I started to make. Having been a student of fine art photography since school, I had a pretty good sense of where I stood as a shooter - mediocre at best. To put a time stamp on it, probably around 20 years ago and over time I became increasingly hypercritical about my work. That self-inflicted curse has only grown worse : ) but it’s what keeps me engaged and progressing within both commercial and the personal work.
I have a quick story regarding my worst or perhaps best critique ever. Back then an established fine art photographer was visiting my design studio and I dragged him over to a wall where I'd hung a few of my photographs. I asked for his opinion and requested "don't pull any punches". He was an older gent, known to be a little crotchety and he looked me straight in the eye and said "the film was worth more before it was exposed". Love that line to this day : )
VSonoma: What are your favorite subjects or area(s) of interest?
Mark Wegner: I focus primarily on Landscape and Architecture, which when combined translates to "location photography". But I also love searching for and shooting ‘abstraction’ as you see in my show here. I shoot some wildlife and I like street photography as well but both are a genre of photography I don’t particularly seek out. In short, if it crosses my path though, I’ll frame ‘em up and let it rip.
VSonoma: Please tell us a little about your style and process?
Mark Wegner: Most of my landscape work is rendered as B&W and I’m always searching for the quiet quiet version of any landscape scene I come across. More often than not, I fail. If it’s a somewhat busy landscape, I methodically try and remove unwanted elements through tight framing, available light, perspective and finally overall composition. Easier said than done! Within color I've always followed a bold is better path but increasingly I'm now trying to find scenes with a minimal color palette. Preferably with only one or two colors dominating the scene.
VSonoma: Do you have any past or present photographers, artists or mentors that have influenced your work?
Mark Wegner: To this day I still admire many of the great landscape photographers who ushered in the modern area of straight photography. Thanks to the web I can follow several contemporary photographers such as minimalists Michael Kenna and Michael Levin along with location shooters like David DuChemin, John Paul Caponigro, Martin Bailey and others.
VSonoma: For those technically inclined, could you touch on the gear and digital applications you use?
Mark Wegner: I started out shooting with a 4 x 5 view camera — a Deardorf wooden beast with just one lense (a 210mm Rodenstock). I barely had a clue of what I was doing. I was very naive and chose a 4 x 5 camera because I was mimicking what the aforementioned professional studio photographers were using. I was also head over heels with the ability to shoot professional 4 x 5 Polaroid films as well via the view camera's removable backs. Fustration quickly gave way to 35mm analog Nikon cameras and I've remained with the brand to this day. Stick with what you know as the cliche goes!
Currently I pack two Nikon D7100s along with a Sony RX 100v.3 (a very capable sub-compact) which is very handy when forced into ‘shooting stealth mode’. As a side note, I’m getting close to converting to a Sony mirrorless system. I keep waiting for Nikon to enter the pro mirrorless market and that wait is getting increasingly tiresome. There is no doubt that Sony is leading the charge in technology and portability at the momemt. Bottom line, I'm definitely looking to lighten the load I lug around.
Software wise, 90% of all my post processing occurs within Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.
VSonoma: Where do you see yourself 5 years down the road with your art?
Mark Wegner: As a career-long art director, I still love design and work part-time (specifically creating web ads and sites). Over the past 7-8 years that has taken a back seat to constantly improving my portfolio and building a reputation as a commercial location photographer. Those two agenda items are an ongoing task to say the least! I also occassionally enter curated/juried photography shows, enjoy constructing mixed media art projects and stay involved in a couple online photo sharing sites. I don't see much changing with that agenda in the next 5 years.
VSonoma: Last and somewhat off the cuff if you could choose a location for your own private photographic ‘Zen retreat’ complete with a modest living arrangement, where would it be?
Mark Wegner: I’m pretty content living and working in Sebastopol-Sonoma County, CA with its landscape diversity and close proximity to the coast (half an hour away), California Gold country (2 hours away), Eastern Sierra and Yosemite (4.5 hours away) and last and certainly not least, Pt. Reyes National Seashore (1 hour away). But a small, minimal abode (say 450 sq. ft.) smack dab (anywhere) on the North coast could work!
Mark Wegner is a Art Director and Photographer based in Sonoma County, CA. For more on Mark visit his web site at markwegner.com
All images © Mark Wegner