The freedom that recent technology and the Internet allows us to have has paved way to many artists both amateur and professional to show their work out to those willing to pay attention.
You can probably tell by my Instagram page that I enjoy taking pictures, but unlike my inclinations towards writing, photography is and probably always will be put in the hobbies folder in my mind.
That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, for my friend @markcastillophotography, whose knack for the craft continues to amaze people every time he posts a new photo online.
I first met Mark Castillo (or Kuya Mark, a name I prefer to refer him by due to the wisdom that exudes from him whenever we converse – see, big word!) when I visited their Seventh Day Adventist church near North London, but it wouldn’t be until a few years later that I’d hit LIKE on his Facebook page and learn about his passion for taking a good shot.
I’m a sucker for crisp detail and popping colours, small features in the corners of the photo that show themselves when you examine the shot, like little treats in an already delicious cake. These are all evident in his work, and it shows both his effortless use of a camera and his experience in editing.
And just as with previous WYT posts, I asked our very game subject a few questions about the craft and how they see it from their eyes. Read below for some wisdom from the man himself.
I love you most at night, London!
1. What first attracted you to photography? What was that first spark like?
Ever since I was a child, I remember my dad always having his camera around. One day, I must have been around six or seven years old, he handed me his camera and said “Oh, okay, you shoot.” My response to him was “Shoot what?” He said to me, “Anything you want.” So I shot the grass – I think that’s how the story went, at least. Forgive me, that was years ago!
Fast forward to 2010, that same camera (Nikon F3), my dad gave to me and I took it for a spin. I put in a roll of film and… Click!
The gratification of the shutter mechanism shoots – see what I did there? – right down to your fingers and straight to your soul. Even though the images take some time to develop, it gave me a feeling of excitement and anticipation, like I had a new toy, or as if I had invented something with my own hands. Priceless. I owe it to my Dad (thanks Dad!).
2. What sort of message would you like people to take away from your pictures?
To evoke an emotion that matches the picture: joy, sadness, celebration, jubilation are few examples. Pictures are stories in frames, so I would like the viewer to feel something, deep in their gut, regardless if they were present or not. For those viewing with a personal affiliation with the pictures, it becomes an added bonus, because those are memories which become timeless: always bringing them back to that exact moment. For those not present, I want them to feel as they had a front row seat to the ‘subjects who are laughing’ and find themselves laughing alongside them, too. On a larger scale, acknowledging the beauty of God and love through human interaction.
3. Do you have any themes or styles that you like using when editing?
I actually initially read the question wrong and wrote a whole paragraph on shooting style! Anyways, to substantiate an answer: I am a big fan of saturated and glossy images. I see it as the ‘PAL vs. NTSC’, ’24fps vs. 30fps’, ‘USA vs. UK’.
Okay, I may have lost a few of you here, but simply put: when you watch blockbuster movies, the difference of the gloss finish of American movies vs. the standard of finish of British sitcoms and movies, is what I prefer.
Warmth over cold! I like colours to pop when I edit and I seldom dial down the temperature unless it’s needed. But! I understand the need to service clients with colder tones for special occasions (weddings) i.e. sepias and muted tones but for the most part, I’m a warm guy! (pun intended). I also love shallow depth of field, so tools in editing that will compliment this (contrast, highlights, shadows) is a winner!
4. How do you see you and your craft developing through the years?
I think I’m a harsh critic of myself, so I expect excellence to be a part of everything I do. Having said that, I want to be visionary in a sense that the photo is made way before the photo is taken = in my mind (Of course I’m working on that now, but I’m still putting in my hours!).
I also want to remove myself from the G.A.S Syndrome (Gear. Acquisition. Syndrome – Zack Arias reference, that photographers fall prone to) and genuinely see my camera as a tool and myself as the artist (not vice versa)- that no matter what I use, I can still create good art. I would like to think in years to come, I can think of any situation, approach it and say to myself “yup, that can be done… let’s try it this way.”
Lastly, I want to reach a deep proficiency of understanding of how art is claimed ‘beautiful’ (subjectivity removed, objectively applied as a unified global acceptance of what constitutes as a beautiful image), so being a dedicated student of light, artistic composition and expression.
5. Final question: favourite camera model and why would you recommend?
Can they make the perfect camera already?! So I can like that?! Jokes aside – It’s hard to choose, so I’ll give you an ideal answer: Nikon D4s – it is currently the flagship model of Nikon and is a perfect balance of speed and ruggedness – is able to handle all or most lighting situations (ISO) and is fast (can handle most genres of photography with a whopping 11fps) – it may not be a master for landscapes but is the camera I sure want to own in the future!
If you want to keep up with Kuya Mark of if you’d like to contact him for a possible shoot, follow him on the links below and don’t be shy to say hello:
Facebook: Mark Castillo Photography
Shout outs to those featured in some of the pics above Kamal Kamyab (check out his new book here!).