Mark Stephenson Finds Zen-Like State With Photography
Makes annual trek to La Quinta's 'Art Under the Umbrellas'
Mark Stephenson on his photography: "My art is often described as 'visual Haiku'."
Photo by Holly Hughes
“The joyful exuberance of everyday life really inspires me. Everything is connected. This illusion that we have of things being separate or alone…is not real. It is clear to me as an artist that everything is a part of everything else.” –Mark Stephenson, photographer
Photography has taken Mark Stephenson to points in Europe, Russia, Siberia, Toyko, Taiwan and Mexico, but his favorite spots are often right outside his home in Sky Valley.
“Whenever, wherever (almost) I find myself in the presence of good light and common natural forms,” Stephenson says. “To live, and breathe, and see is a miracle of miracles. Such magic!”
After many years as a successful professional photographer, Stephenson decided to focus on fine art and establish a studio in nearby Sky Valley.
- He collaborated with Jerry Gay, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer
- He volunteered with Peter Howorth, head of the American Cetacean Society’s sea lion rehabilitation activities
- He caught the eye of Craig Aurness, National Geographic photographer and founder of Westlight Stock Photo Agency, who went on to offer Stephenson a job developing various stories including the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles
An avid fan of festivals, he will show his work Nov. 30 in Old Town La Quinta at Art Under the Umbrellas, presented by the La Quinta Arts Foundation. This popular event features more than 70 artists in a casual outdoor setting amidst music, lively restaurants in a family atmosphere.
Palm Springs Life spoke with Stephenson and gained a taste of his Zen-like enthusiasm and approach to his photography.
How would you characterize your photography? What makes it special?
“What makes my art special is its elegant simplicity, amazing luminosity, texture, depth and clarity. I accomplish this with a Zen esthetic. My art is often described as 'visual Haiku'. I also use a unique, laborious, many-step technical process I developed myself. Original photography. Inkjet printed over hand applied metallic leaf on hand textured, cradled wood panels flooded with resin.”
What are your top three, favorite, subjects to shoot and why?
“Grasses, trees and water. My artwork points to and celebrates the transcendent value of life itself as manifested in common natural forms.”
Why do you like showing at Festivals?
“Touring festivals is energizing and exhausting all wrapped together. I feel a wonderful lightness of spirit. Even though my body is usually tired and sore from the many long, long hours and days of hard art-making work, I feel this deep sense of gratification… knowing I’ve given it all I had. Pushed my being. Tested my limits. Stretched. Grown. I love the long hours on the road too. Time for reflection and rest. Butt time. Also seeing beautiful country…inspiration.”
You've shown at La Quinta for many years. What do you like about Art Under the Umbrellas?
“Art Under the Umbrellas provides visitors and residents of the Coachella Valley a fun, entertaining art experience with a gorgeous venue and access to a well qualified home owning, art-loving demographic. It, also, provides artists new to the festival market a safe, extremely well run, friendly opportunity to gain valuable experience.”
How has photography changed with evolving technologies…the rise of the Internet, use of iPhone's as cameras?
“There’s been tremendous technological change in photography over the course of my career. But rapid technological advancement has been a pillar of photography since it began, only 200 years ago. I like a good quality, but not fancy camera with a good close up lens. But even my iPhone takes great movies, and can create amazingly high quality panoramas.”