Catch Up: Mark Peckmezian

There’s something really interesting about Mark Peckmezian’s photography. It’s arresting—and this quality yanks it out of the stream of imagery we constantly see through monitors and smart phones.  It’s arresting not just to the Toronto art scene and blogosphere, but also to a wide spectrum of publications with wildly different aesthetics and audiences. For instance, Mark recently shot for The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, and UK music magazine The Wire.  This was not long after being profiled by Vice Magazine, and shooting for Toronto cerebral/erotic magazine Up and Coming. He also recently kicked off an exhibit at the Harbourfront Centre called “Portrait.” Across the increasingly blurred boundaries of old media institutions and aesthetics, the appeal of Mark’s work is clear. As curator Patrick Macaulay says, “Mark draws on classical portraiture methods to produce imagery very rooted in the present.”

The three realities of photography today are 1) that it is being produced and shared by more people than ever before, 2) talking about it can get confusing and 3) people really like giving everyday scenes a semblance of the past. An Instagram filter can instill a picture of, say, a piece of pie with some imagination of what it was like to take that pie picture with a film camera in the ‘70s. One might say that that’s what the postmodern condition is all about—the past and present getting all mashed up. Anyways, to the point: I would argue that Mark’s photography is able to tap into the present condition of photography, reflect it back and speak to it.

I met up with Mark at his Harbourfront Centre reception in April to touch base on his exhibit and future plans.

DSC_0526Andrew Weir: What is this exhibit about?

Mark Peckmezian: I’ve been interested for the last couple years in a certain kind of portraiture. It’s a sort of documentary portrait.  It started a few years ago for the first time. Before that, I was doing shots that used people as props and were about some emotion or something—but then about two years ago I started doing this. It stems from an interest in culture I think

AW: Was there something that influenced your decision to blow up the portraits that you did?

MP: Yeah, I’m sure there is a certain quality that all of them have. Not all of the photos would work being blown up that large, but I’m not sure what the quality is. I think one thing I was going for was to render these people as icons or as timeless. These photos had that feeling the most.

AW: Your work seems to have transcended both commercial and fine art.

MP: Yeah, it’s funny. I’m definitely interested in doing both—it’s just about finding some kind of common ground. Where you practice commercial photography in a really interesting way that actually ads an art value to it, I think that’s where it really draws its appeal.

AW: Does your processing and developing styles vary depending on the audience of a commercial project?

MP: The ideal magazine job is one where I’m given a lot of creative control and can essentially just do what I want to do. But few jobs are actually like that. I’ll often be explicitly told to do a commissioned shoot in a particular style, but there are also unspoken expectations that vary with the publication.

DSC_0530AW: Do you mind touching on your work with animals and portraiture with dogs?

MP: My dog photos aren’t about dogs, really. Dogs are just the token subject matter. The photos are about photography, when it comes down to it, and I shoot those photos for photography’s sake. [It’s] because I’m drawn to a particular photographic style, because I like the way the light is falling, because there is an interesting compositional idea being acted out by a few dogs —things like that.

Further, it’s just fun and good practice. You have to act fast when shooting them. It helps keep you sharp.

AW: What’s happening with Up and Coming? Is that something you’ve enjoyed working on?

MP: Up and Coming is a magazine published by my good friend Mike Feswick. I’ve shot for every issue thus far. I love shooting for him, because I shoot a subject I would probably never otherwise get the opportunity to shoot, and because I respect his taste and judgement and am always happy with the results creatively.

AW: What’s happening this summer for you?

MP: I’m moving permanently to NYC in June. I intend to just do there what I’m doing now, and see what happens.

AW: What’s next?

MP: I have a solo show at O’Born Contemporary this all that I’m working on. I have a lot of new ideas that I’m currently experimenting with—mostly portrait ideas.

DSC_0536Check out Mark’s show at the Harbourfront Centre until June 16, 2013.

Photography by Andrew Weir