Recently featured in an article here on Uniquespiration (click here) I was impressed by up and coming photographer Mark ‘Bleeblu’ Harless, his talent and his unique photographic style. After a few days of posting the article, Mark contacted me via Twitter stating if I desired an interview with him to be featured on Uniquespiration he would gladly do it. Without hesitation, I agreed and the following is what came of it.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in the Philippines and moved to a small island in the Pacific called Kwajalein. I spent my youth under the sun and in the water. After I graduated high school I joined the military and was stationed in San Francisco and Kodiak, Alaska. Afterwards I moved to Huntsville, Alabama and that’s where I’ve been since.
You mention in your biography that in 2011 you stumbled upon a photo that “possibly changed your life forever” and that the very next day you bought your first camera. I find that very fascinating; must have been a very powerful photograph! Would you be able to share that photo with us, or at least describe it and tell us what feelings it conjured up inside of you the moment you laid eyes on it for the very first time?
The photo is Lissy Elle’s Creationism. You’ll understand how I felt the first time I saw it.
Screenshot from Lissy Elle’s official website www.lissyelle.com
Browsing your works I notice your portfolio includes three main types of photography; fashion photography, fine-art photography and conceptual photography. What was the evolution of that? Did you start with fine-art photography and then evolve into fashion and conceptual photography, or was the other way around?
I’ve always had some sort of interest in photography but never really made that step until two years ago. I knew what made a good picture good and a bad picture bad. I skipped the basics and cliche photos (puppies, railroad tracks, etc) and jumped right into the creative stuff. After a year or so I decided I should probably go back and teach myself composition, light, etc. Since then it’s been the battling of different styles. I can’t decide which I like best and I don’t think I ever will.
How did you learn photography, did you study it in school or are you self taught?
I started photography in a phase where I wasn’t in school. I learned most of the things I use today through the internet. YouTube videos are always great. I’m mostly self taught but now that I’m in college I’ve picked up a few things here and there. Before school I taught myself how to shoot, during school I was taught why we shoot. It’s really helped me understand myself.
What camera and lenses do you use?
Right now the camera I use are Nikon D600 and disposables. The lenses I have in my bag are 50mm 1.8 and 24-70mm 2.8
Do you work as a professional photographer or is photography mainly a hobby for you?
I’m nowhere near professional level. Right now it’s just a hobby to sometimes make a few extra dollars on the side. Maybe one day but that seems out of my reach right now.
I noticed you use a lot of juxtaposition in your photographs, meaning that you capture two contradictory subjects in the same image, often putting the lighter side of life next to the darker side of life. For example, in this photograph, we see colorful balloons, something that normally conjures emotions of joy and happiness, and you contrast this by placing them in a dark room with the eery silhouette of a young man. Why the juxtaposition?
I like the idea of making something that is, isn’t. Pairing two opposing elements together to play off of one another. This photo in particular was very much influenced by The Weeknd. Several of his songs are about parties that he is too high to enjoy.
As a conceptual photographer, how do you make such impossible scenes in real-life look totally feasible and real? For example, this photo absolutely boggles my mind! Amazing.
Photoshop, man. Photoshop.
How do you find your models? Are they friends of yours, people you meet on the streets, or professional models?
When I first started I didn’t have much of a following. My subjects were usually myself or friends I was tight with. Now that I’ve built up a portfolio I’ve branched out to my friends’ friends and so on. I’ve photographed a few girls that I’ve had no connection with. Never any professional models though.
I see that you photograph many of your female models in the water. Is there a reason for this? Is there a message and/or connection you are trying to make between water and the female form?
I’ve never really noticed that! Maybe because the female body and water are just so damn sexy.
Besides the photograph that captivated and helped you discover your passion for photography, are there any photographers that have and continue to inspire you?
Of course. Over the New Year’s I had the opportunity to meet my favorite photographers in Atlanta. I felt like a little girl meeting her favorite movie star. Lately I’ve been very moved by Marwane Pallas, Alison Scarpulla and Silvia Grav.
Getting off the subject of photography for a moment, what kind of music do you enjoy listening to and are there any artists and/or bands you like in particular?
I’ve already mentioned The Weeknd. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Disclosure, Childish Gambino and Portugal. The Man
You are obviously a young and very talented photographer with lots of potential and, in my opinion, a very bright career in photography ahead of you. In an ideal world, where will you be and what will you be doing in five years time?
In five years I’d love to have my work shown in more galleries. I want to be seen more of an artist than a photographer. I feel like that’s what a lot of us strive for, to be taken more seriously.
What tips do you have for aspiring photographers?
Shoot what you love and use what you have around you. The latter part I only discovered very recently. I’ve always been super jealous that I don’t have the income and off time to travel anymore. I see these photographers taking photos of icy landscapes, sunny beaches and great wonders. “If only I could take pictures there,” I’d keep thinking to myself. It’s taken me years to realize that where I live now is very beautiful. I just had to go out and find it.
Learn more about Mark ‘Bleeblu’ Harless