Mark Alor Powell chats with Eric and talk about Mark’s book Open at Noon. They explore making meaning, photobook making, and going through that process of making a photobook. (Photos by Mark Alor Powell, Interview by Eric Kim)
Eric:Mark, congrats on the new book. Tell us about your new book, and how it came about.
Mark: Thanks. I knew I had a book somewhere with a good strong edit. A friend sent me a link to enter the Editorial RM Fotolibro award. Spent a good two months trying to find a sequence. The way I was working as a photographer from 2006- 2014, I was getting good single frame stories that weren’t necessarily all connected, the book was good way to connect these, make sense with a sequence, try to establish some welding points.
I love the red cover and alligator skin texture. Why did you choose that as the cover?
I wanted the book not to be too documentary or read as something “real.” I liked that it was like a lady’s purse found in the back of a taxi, maybe a sub-read of something inside that is private, unexpected, tactile, the world that is extracted from the real and changed.
It seems your book is a mix of Mexico, Detroit, and other places. How did you decide to do this, and why?
I tried to make place a non-issue. I left out both the introduction and photographic notes for the book. I like when the way of working, the style of the photographs, their motivations all exert themselves equally, pop up in many similiar instances–this then becomes more like a taping into the day to day reality with a certain characteristic of flavors instead of places. In the end, it tells something specifically universal, exerts a place or mood of its own through the selection.
What does “open at noon” mean for you?
It is such a general term, hackneyed, that it really transforms a bit under a selection of these photographs. If you have something to present to the world, a new business, restaurant, event, you make this non-time and open at noon. It is this weird neutralization of time. I also liked the obvious reference to opening the book itself, a small event, what follows is also open for interpretation, possible futures, a portrait and then a portal pointing straight up to the sky, like an antenna and hand to a clock, and invitation to enter this world–subtle symbols of duality, mirrors, fateful ends, arms, hands, holes and points of reference– all making an interesting puzzle that can be read many ways.
What was the most challenging part of putting together your book?
Making it seem whole and done. Being firm with inclusions to the book, the edit was a great exercise.
It batted me on the head and made me sink into the essence of the work until it really didn’t even seem like I owned it. I recommend everyone to go through this process and as you are able to discover new meanings in your photography you thought you knew through and through.
What was the most fun or enjoyable part of putting together your book?
The fact that it was possible. Seeing the work lay down and come together, solving the puzzles and creating new puzzles. Finding details about the work I never saw before, being intimate and close to the photographs.
Feeling joy and excitement through the editing process.
Describe the editing process of the book: how did you decide which photos to include, and what not to include?
I had lots of different edits, I printed up maybe 300 4x6s, shuffled through them like a card shark, carried them everywhere and lived with them. I met some close photographer friends and asked their opinion and take on my edits. The work was always in ebb that slowly came together. The finding of the title helped, directed and shifted the selection to a state as I entered for final consideration for a jury. I tried not to think of being judged, tried to be honest with my own voice. After I was selected, I asked Ramon Reverte from RM to go through my edit and he took it to a friend in Barcelona. I also came with one more photograph for the book and it then after this last consideration, it took its final form. I remember we had all the photographs on a table before a final go ahead and snap of the iphone.
What are some of the most personally meaningful photos for you in the book?
I like the woman with the broom walking towards the mountain. It is a photograph that reminds me of mysterious goals and fates that lie unaware for me. I also like the opening photograph with the monument, it steadies me to see the sequence and represents something of the future of photographs and those I haven’t taken yet. It excites me and pushes me to shoot more. This is something of the message, the open nature and space of inspiration and the world where we eventually find ourselves as photographers and through our own photographs.
What do you want viewers to get out of your book?
I want people to get excited about the pictures and inspire them.
What advice, tips, wisdom would you give to those who want to make their own book?
Don’t think of a book while you are shooting, Just shoot, be free. The edit will take care of these things eventually. Stay loose enough with your thematics or subject matter, stay open to the unexpected things that may fall your way. As you accumulate work, start putting together your number ones, make good choices, start a journal of your experiences with your photography, a shooting journal. Start finding references, maybe TV shows, movies, poems or novels that are moving you. What is the stitch that is unifying your work? This will guide you further and you get to make more pictures that run along that stitch. You will find It starts looking like a book. Also make the pictures come first and not the concept. I think lots of photo-books these days are concept driven and the pictures take a back seat.
For More of Mark’s Work
Get Open At Noon Here
For More Photobooks, check out Mark’s PublishED RM’s page: http://www.editorialrm.com/2010/