Mark Gellineau started doing photography in 2007 when his sister got a point and shoot camera which he “borrowed” and never returned. That was the genesis of an infatuation that led to the breath-taking images you see here, nine years later.
After six years of apprenticing, exploring and learning, and three years in the corporate world, Mark is bringing a more focused line of vision to his “glass eyes”, offering top notch image making services. His niche: portraits and journalism.
In this interview Mark talks about his favourite part of photography, what equipment he uses (CANON) and what it takes to create great images, amongst other topics.
Mark says his dream is to work for National Geographic. In my mind it`s a done deal, but you be the judge…
EP: What do you love about photography?
Mark Gellineau: It took me a while to define what kind of photographer I was; a portrait and documentary photographer.
What I like about shooting people, and the pride that I take in my work is that I`m able to show people a side of them that they didn`t think was there. That`s why I don`t really like to work with models. And it`s also why I retouch and edit in the way that I do. You will never see the plastic fantastic photography from me. You will never see porcelain skin. You`re always going to see reality. Being able to show people themselves in a way that makes them think is the most rewarding thing.
“The reason I gravitated towards shooting people, is that I`m able to show people a side of them that they didn`t think was there.”
EP: Who are some photographers whose work you admire?
Mark Gellineau: Akif Hakan. I was really really into his work when I first started shooting. His colour work was crazy. I followed his work for a long time. When I was huge into the fragments type of images I was looking at a lot of work from Herb Ritts. That is the kind of level I aspire to. Also a guy called Andre Brito. He did a lot of structural nude posing. A guy called Patrick Shaw who I met on Flickr and didn`t know how big he was until many many years later. I got a testimonial from him on Flickr and if I knew what it meant at the point in time….he shoots Vogue covers….I didn`t know. His portrait work is WOW.
EP: What pointers would you give someone who wants to take great photographs?
Mark Gellineau: Three things. First, do NOT drink the Kool-Aid. Meaning don`t ever take feedback from people who don`t know what they`re talking about. And I mean that in the most innocent way. Don’t take fluff feedback. Social Media for me has always been about showing people how you think, so if you`re trying to show how you think, but you`re showing it to people who aren`t thinking then what are you doing?
Which is why I strongly believe in something that is increasingly rare these days. I believe in mentorship. I believe in people having mentors because I`ve had three major mentors and they`ve really guided me. Wyatt Gallery, who`s a phenomenal photographer. The teaching has always been more about photoshoot experience. It`s tough to get yourself on the productions of more robust photography campaigns but I got that through him. That was my first taste of shooting all day. Working on productions that took weeks of shooting every day.
“I strongly believe in something that is increasingly rare these days. I believe in mentorship.”
After that was Mark Lyndersay, who is one of my favourite people ever. He is great. You have to have a thick skin with him. He`s always helped me every step of the way. That`s one of the people I would do almost anything for if they asked me.
Anybody trying to do something great in this life, find yourself under the wing of somebody who`s already done some great things. And mentorship is not pestering someone constantly with dumb questions. Because his style of mentoring is very hands on and “come to me when you already have an idea”, you have a plan and you tried it but it didn`t work. Don`t come to me and say “well what should I do?” He will not respond to that. Different mentors are different but mentors are very important.
My third mentor is Sean Drakes. Great guy. Great guy. As flamboyant as they come.
Secondly you have to consume whatever it is you`re producing. So if you want to make good photography, you have to consume great images all the time because an important part of being a visual creator is knowing what looks good. It sounds like it should be a no brainer right. It`s not. If you`re a poor editor of your own work, you will end up showing a lot of rubbish. And it`s the hallmark of an amateur: to do a shoot, let`s say you end up with 300 images from the shoot and you`re throwing up twenty images. No, no, no, take them all down, immediately, and put back two.
“Take them all down, immediately, and put back two.”
So that`s the second thing, you have to consume a lot of good work, not to be influenced but to develop your sense of taste, to know what good work is.
And lastly you have to be courageous. You have to be brave because you`re basically telling people that you`re making something and the thing that you’re making deserves attention. You have to be so behind what it is you`re doing that you think it’s worth someone else`s time and attention and money. So you have to develop that self-confidence in your work. And once you have a mentor and you`re receiving good feedback you won`t drink your own Kool-Aid. So the pieces all work together. They are all part of a system that should be developed over time.
EP: What is your process when it comes to creating images/doing a photoshoot?
Mark Gellineau: I like minimalism.
Minimalism is present in every aspect of my life. The way I compose my frames. The way I keep my room. The way I structure my processes, my workflows. It`s all about minimalism.
Very pragmatic, no frills, things just have to make sense. I also try to be ready with my research. So if I`m going to shoot someone I try to do some research. I try to get a sense of who they are by looking at what they say about themselves and how they present themselves online. Research is important to get a sense of what you`re going into. Not just researching your subject, but also trying to make sure that you go into a situation knowing what you want to get out of it. When it is client work that is really important. I would research the person. I would research what other people that I respect have done in this realm of photography and then I try to understand what I want to get from this person based on those elements coming together.
“I like minimalism.”
EP: What equipment do you use?
Mark Gellineau: Well sometimes you get gear as needs arise depending on what you have to shoot. If tomorrow I get commissioned to shoot something underwater I`ll need underwater equipment. But I have a core kit. My core kit is: I believe in shooting full frame all the way. I do a lot of low light work and full frame cameras simply let in more light. You also get a larger image. I also believe in Prime lenses. They have excellent optical quality, they tend to be faster, their aperture opens up to a much larger point. I like Prime lenses because they tend to be cheaper for having big apertures. That picture with Wasia and the hair was shot at f/2. Because of that depth of field, it gave that explosive effect. If I shot it at a higher f-stop and the image was flat, or her hair was in focus it would be totally different. It would be boring.
Prime lenses allow you to get a range of depth of field more affordably and they tend to be more well-made and just produce better images because they don`t have to do two things at the same time: they`re specialists. They have one thing to do: take really good images. I have an 85mm and a 50mm. Those are portrait lenses. I believe you really only need three lenses. One wide lens. So I have a 70-40mm that covers the wide range. I have two Prime lenses that cover portraiture lengths: 50mm and 85mm, and I have another zoom lens, a 70-200mm. I`m mainly a natural light shooter but these days I`ve been warming up to studio shoots. I shoot in RAW. I am a CANON guy- flames for Nikon. I believe in keeping gear light because it allows you to try to push yourself. Don’t ever try to solve all of your problems with gear. Try to solve your problems with your brain.