When Glass Hat Magazine asked me to write about myself, I was not quite sure what to say. Then I realized that my story touches on this month’s theme.
First a brief introduction. When not working full-time, I am a photographer. Shooting as Mark Gunter Photography, I primarily offer portrait services. My main focus is on contemporary glamour, aimed at making the average woman feel beautiful.
I shoot creative work under the name QuestionMark Photography. Currently, I am shooting models for my “In The Logo” project. Each month, I introduce a new image with a model interacting with the QuestionMark logo. I also have a collection of other works floating around in my head, screaming to be created.
I have always been intrigued by photography, but the opportunity to pursue my interest took some time to manifest. While attending college and borrowing my father’s camera, I realized two things: I really enjoyed shooting and I couldn’t afford to shoot.
My family sat right in that sweet spot of having too little money and not quite enough. While most of my friends were taking student loans or getting other forms of financial aid, I did good to get a scholarship that covered my first year at a community college. To graduate college, I would work jobs that would allow me to continue school while living with my parents. Buying and developing film were not options, so I left the camera behind.
After college, life continued to keep me occupied. As often as I could, I would take pictures. Rarely would I develop the film and various life events led to the loss of several undeveloped rolls. For a few years, I played with a digital point and shoot camera. I still keep the old 32 MB CF card I bought for it in my desk drawer.
In 2002, things began to fall apart. The details would likely bore many to tears, but I was as broken as I expect I can be. Still, I had a roof over my head, I was well fed, my friends helped where they could, and a job until I was suddenly laid off. Unemployed for six months, I had no idea how to turn things around. I eventually found a job that helped renew my lost confidence, and put my life back on track.
I had traction. I knocked out the debts left over from ‘the dark time’ and found myself pursuing a Master’s degree. By the time I walked across the stage, I was happily married, had a newborn son and we would be in our brand new home by the end of the year.
Somewhere along the way, my love for photography was rekindled. My (then future) father-in-law saw my interest and gave me my first ‘real’ camera that Christmas.
I cut my teeth on landscapes and wildlife for the first few years. Occasionally, I would cajole someone into stepping in front of my lens. I am not a terribly outgoing person, so it was a slow painful process to get to a point where I would photograph people on a regular basis. I often joke that it is difficult to photograph people when you are used to bison and bears. They typically don’t respond to requests to turn this way or that, lift you right hoof, bend the back leg, etc. Working with a subject that actually does react is still something I am not completely comfortable with, but I am getting there.
As I pursued one hobby, I also was enjoying others. Chief among those other hobbies was miniature war gaming, in particular, playing the World War II miniatures game Flames of War. The 15 mm miniatures actually went hand in hand with my photography, giving me something new to shoot. Thus, I started tinkering in product photography, but not nearly enough to consider myself good at it. Learning about a semi-annual tournament held in Kansas City, I made the trek to see what it was all about. Meeting many people I only knew from internet forums, I was intrigued enough to return the following Spring and play in a tournament. Between rounds, I was photographing the games in progress, eventually to post them for others to see. Future events found me continuing to shoot. Photography, war-gaming, and building new relationships led in a direction I did not foresee.
I was approached by a fellow gamer who had seen my personal website, knew that I had an eye for graphic design, and a love of gaming. Well respected in the gaming community, it was an honor when he asked for my assistance with putting together materials for an upcoming event. Over the next few months, I settled into my desk chair and started creating documents that helped cause a bit of a stir and were part of a very successful tournament. Soon after, I was asked to become part of a fledgling game company, DGS Games (www.dgsgames.com), as they needed someone to handle graphic design, the website, and eventually photography. It was an offer I could not refuse.
Recognizing how my networking with gamers had paid off, I decided that if I were to ever do anything serious with photography, I needed to get plugged in. I began to connect with local photography groups, attending workshops, and rounding up models to help me hone my art. For a while, it was more about getting experience and becoming comfortable working with people than it was about creating anything special. Most importantly, the feedback I was getting from other photographers spurred me on. It wasn’t long before I began to wonder if I might be able to turn photography into a business.
Then lightning struck when I learned about and managed to obtain a scholarship to Skip’s Summer School (http://mei500.com/) held in Las Vegas in 2011. All I had to do was get there and pay for room and board. I was not nearly as excited as I should have been. Here I was, a nobody with nothing but a business card and the idea that I could take photos going to a place where I could rub shoulders with photographers from around the world.
The opening speaker was Jerry Ghionis. I had no idea who he was, but his presentation opened my eyes. I loved photography. He made me realize why. To paraphrase, if the average photograph at a wedding is taken at 1/100th of a second shutter speed, in 100 shots, you have captured only one second of the entire event. Yet, when years pass and they see those photographs, the entire day will come
Photographer: Mark Gunter Photogaphy
Model: Jaimie Arnolds