Meet Artist Mark Aghatise
Mark Aghatise (@markaghatise) is a New York-based photographer and graphic designer who does a bit of everything. His clients include Nylon Magazine, Apple, VSCO, Ello, Cakeboy Magazine, and OKAY Africa.
Interviewer Mark Gelband (@markgelband) is Ello’s Chief Marketing Officer, an expert in container home construction, a long-time writer, and a local everywhere he goes.
But first: Enter to win a framed copy of Mark's print "Untitled".
Your site is bold in its simplicity - colors, layout, brevity etc., and you begin with the following concise artist statement: STILL UNFURLING HIS EXPERIENCES, HIS IDENTITIES, HIS JOURNEY. MARK AGHATISE IS A PROJECT. It's a statement that has much to unpack, but I'll begin here: That bold simplicity seems reflected in your portraits - a single pop of color, one strong piece of light accentuating a smile or body part. Can you discuss bold simplicity as it relates to your work?
I think it doesn't take much to make a strong image or an image that can ask the audience to engage with it for a moment. The way I approach my work and the process both before and after it is figuring out ways to break it down to simple elements. I ask myself, "If I take away all the bells and whistles in an image or idea, what is left?" I always think of what I am saying to my audience about a subject or a moment, and when incorporating the idea of less is more, I truly believe simplicity can be the boldest statement. I also think the simplicity in my photographs translates the intimacy of the moment between me and a subject during a portrait session. In a world where we are less and less vulnerable and intimate with ourselves and others, I strive to break that down and be real.
How do you see yourself, your identities and journey unfurling in your work?
Ha! This is something I am still struggling with right now, and a reason why I am taking a hiatus from strictly fashion photography, so I can work on self-portraits, graphic designs, illustrations, and video installations. I'm thankful for my creative output because it helps me understand myself, fashion photography allowed me to refine my eye, and use other bodies as a nexus between how I see myself in my own mind and what that projected self looks like in the real world if projected onto another. I think other mediums will offer me more nuance in terms of self and my ideologies, so I am excited to explore those avenues and see what comes of them. I also enjoy learning how others process me and my work, I constantly curate my online presence and record reactions and interactions noting how we all try to build thee singular archetypes about each other despite the fact that we are such multi-dimensional people. Because I believe we are constantly changing and evolving, who you are as a person is only determined by the choices you make and the ways in which you present and understand these decisions. So I'm engaged with building and breaking different personas.
Your male portraits seem to be asking the question: what does black masculinity look like? It's as if you're trying to show a more modern version of "black power." Can you talk about that?
Hmm. I think with my male portraits I want to capture black men in our essence. Organically and naturally. I'm super thankful for the eye I have developed for male portraiture because I want to emphasize the beauty and variation in the world I live in, that world being heavily black influenced and centered. And like previously said, my portraits of other black men are essentially self-portraits too, for my own sake. I can see myself in so many other people, and so when I approach photographing a new subject, I get to know their personality, their style, their viewpoint and blend that in with mine. I talk a lot during my photo sessions because I believe there is this amazing relationship built during a photo session that breaks down any barriers between me and those I photograph which is why I think my portraits visually strike people so strongly.
And your female portraits reflect similar questions of strength, but almost in more playful and reverent ways. What creative techniques do you use to help you define black feminine beauty?
Photographing women is so hard for me! I really strive to show black women the way I see them in my day to day life because they have played such an important role in my life! When I photograph black women I think about color, color, color! I think about their skin tone, their undertones, what colors would most visually match with that, and then even the color palette of the environment they will be photographed in. When I see these women in the street I'm inspired by the color of their outfits and the detail in expression but yet how it reads so effortless.
In the spread for Cocaine Pretti that you did with India Mitchell, the styling and make-up accentuate what I see as bold, simple, beauty. As a fashion photographer, how closely do you work with style and makeup to help affect the looks you want?
Often I fully creatively direct the shoots I am working on. Depending on the nature of the shoot and where it will be placed, I use makeup as a means of highlighting the vibe and energy of the shoot or to recenter the viewer's eye back to the model. I know fashion is about the clothes, but I am always vested in the model being the center of attention ha! I also enjoy styling and love playing with clothes. I try to get more experimental with men's styling because it can be bland and limited in terms of the garments we have as compared to the vast amount of options women have! Makeup and style also impact the shoot location, the positioning of the model, and the time of day we shoot. I really try to highlight all aspects of a shoot and thus balance one aspect with another.
Where does your sense of personal style come from & how would you describe it?
Well I recently dyed my hair blonde so lately I have been favoring monochrome outfits, but usually, I'm a jeans-and-graphic tee guy. But during winter I really enjoy layering.
Tell us one thing about you and/or your work that people don't get?
I think people brand me as a fashion photographer in their head, but I do so much more than just that. My online presence is fashion photography, but in reality, I draw, write poetry, paint, make pottery, dance, and so much more! But I'll share all that in due time!
You can follow Mark on Ello, Instagram, and YouTube.