Location: Venice, CA
From Canada to California, and from testing explosives for the government to capturing images of abandoned places, Angela Marklew turned her attention to photographing people after working as an assistant to Los Angeles-based photographer Mark Robert Halper. When she first arrived in the U.S., Marklew set out to take pictures of forgotten places in North America. Now, her work can be seen on exhibit in Ottawa, Québec, Louisville, San Diego and Los Angeles. Her clients include Elle Decor, Signature LA Direct magazine, Ephoe Couture, Go Gently Baby, Beata Dirycz and Tobi Tobin Design.
My formal education was in science, specifically chemistry. Aside from a few night-school photography courses, I got my photography education in the field, from books and from my own experimentation. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, I learned about natural light from photographing the interiors of abandoned buildings. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve been assisting and taking workshops to expand both my lighting skills and my dealing-with-people skills.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
A photographer who I consider a mentor once told me to “just do my work.” It’s a simple idea but a powerful one. My whole life, I’ve been really good at talking myself out of things for various reasons—my idea isn’t original, it’s not good enough, it’s not…etc. By just doing my work, I focus on what my ideas are instead of what they aren’t. It made me realize that I just have to keep doing what I do and, eventually, I’ll find my niche instead of worrying about how my work compares to the latest trend in photography.
What was your first job?
My first real job was shooting a look book for a start-up children’s clothing company called Go Gently Baby. The clothing designer was a friend of a friend, and despite the fact that I had never before photographed children, she wanted to work with me. It turned out that photographing children is actually really fun. That was back in the summer of 2008, and I’ve continued to shoot their look book every season.
What advice would you give to a photographer who’s still in school?
I think it’s important to find your style and stick with it. If you’re good, eventually people will take notice. As a young photographer, the impulse to jump from trend to trend can be great. But by only emulating other people’s work, you’ll never find your own voice. Shoot what you love and what you’re passionate about, not what you think you should be photographing. And always learn new things. Keep taking workshops and watching tutorials to learn new skills or refine old ones. Above all, remember that you’re always photographing light so you have to learn how to control it, manipulate it, and in some cases, take it away. Another piece of advice would be to take as many business courses as your school offers. When I started on this path, I didn’t realize how much of being a photographer meant knowing business. The business aspect of photography, especially commercial photography, is one area where I definitely still need to supplement my education.
What inspires you about photography?
The thing that inspires me most about photography is that it allows me to show others not only how I see the world, but how I feel as well. I’m a very visual person. Written communication isn’t my strong suit, so photography lets me express my point of view. And it has this immediacy (unlike pa
inting or drawing) that I’m drawn to. When I photograph in an abandoned or empty space, I like to focus on the details—things that people might overlook when walking through but things that give a huge insight as to the people who once lived or worked there. I put a lot of myself into my work, and this is especially apparent in my portraiture. The moods the viewer gets from my subjects are usually direct reflections of my feelings at that moment in time.
What makes you go out and shoot?
A line from a song can inspire me to get outside and shoot—to capture the same feeling I had while listening to the music. Looking through photo books and magazines and seeing techniques I could incorporate into my own work. Wanting to experiment and try out a new idea or technique gets me out shooting. Periodically, food also sparks an idea. I’m a little obsessed with what people eat, and so I like to find ways to incorporate food into my photos.
What do you like best about the whole process?
I’ve always loved science, and science and photography are intertwined. I love the magic of seeing a print appear in the darkroom. I no longer have a darkroom at home, but I still experiment with alternative and historical processes and try to incorporate them into my work where possible. I also love the satisfaction of producing an image that matches what I saw in my mind (what I previsualized prior to shooting).
How long have you been shooting?
The first photography class I ever took was in 2000. I shot as a hobbyist until 2006 when I came to Los Angeles. I’ve been shooting seriously for the past four years.
What camera equipment do you use?
A Canon EOS 5D with a Canon EF 85mm ƒ/1.8 USM lens, a Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM lens and a Lensbaby. For lighting, I use Dynalite strobes and a Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash.
What’s your favorite piece of Canon gear?
The EF 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS USM lens because recently I’ve found myself shooting outdoors more and have been drawn to more natural environments. I love the way the lens compresses the busy backgrounds into these beautiful abstract designs. I also love it for the more practical reason that it allows me to put my subject in places that are far away from me, such as in the middle of a river, while still allowing me the option of shooting tight portraits.
To see more of Angela Marklew’s work, go to www.fstopinertia.com.