Mark de Paola is a director and photographer based in New York City best known for his wide-open shooting style. He joined the Loculars platform in late 2017 with a few exclusive short-format experiences offered in New York City. De Paola has had multiple covers for Vogue Spain and Mexico, as well as campaigns and commercials for Donna Karen, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Brioni, Neutrogena, La Perla, Sephora and MAC Cosmetics to name a few. His “Art of Backstage” images from NY Fashion Week were recently exhibited at the “NYC Street” show presented by Loculars, and also displayed at the Leica Gallery in Boston, Los Angeles, Tokyo, San Francisco and Dali, China. Mark continues to give master classes worldwide including “Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco, “Leica M Panel” with Ralph Gibson and Leica Camera at multiple locations worldwide. We had the opportunity to hear from Mark first-hand about his early influences, shooting in the fashion industry and what’s ahead for him.
Tell us about your childhood – where did you grow up, how did you first get started with photography?
I was practically born into a photo studio. My father was a photographer and my mother a model with Ford agency. I grew up with Irving Penn (or as we called him, “Mr. Penn”) and Richard Avedon as family friends, and with models sitting on our living room couch. As a child, I spent time between New York City and Los Angeles, always immersed in the photographic and fashion/beauty world. I grew up watching my father’s photoshoots and soaking in the spreads displayed in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. I first started shooting when I was 12 years old, processing and printing color and black and white film in my lab at my home in New York City.
What made you pursue photography as a career? Who were your early inspirations? How did you get your first major breakthrough/assignment?
I was disillusioned by a long-time passion to study international law. I would always film students studying at the beach while I studied in the library. After a time, my sister (then an actress) got headshots taken by the “best headshot photographer in Los Angeles.” They were horrible. While putting a small ad in a motion picture magazine for “Mark de Paola: Headshot Photographer,” an older woman waved me into her office. After a short conversation, she hired me on the spot to shoot the cover of her magazine of actor Henry Fonda, and the rest is history. I was inspired by all the leading photographers of the time, from Richard Avedon and Irving Penn to Bert Stern, Art Kane, and Elliot Erwitt.
You are well known for your wide-open shooting style using natural light for the most part. Tell us a bit about your creative process and what you’re after.
Staying in the environment is really important to me. I always shoot wide open with available light as it is most consistent with the way we see – sharp with fall off into the corners. I rely on natural light to distill the action in the scene. I aim to hold the emotional content in the peripheral, out-of-focus areas. If you are worried about focusing, the world is passing you by.
You’ve done quite a bit of work in fashion. What guidance do you have for others, or if you could give some advice to a young Mark de Paola, what would that be?
Shoot, shoot, shoot! Do not get discouraged by all of the technique. Shoot first, worry about it later. I am not that interested in the picture-perfect photo opportunity, rather when we are most beautiful in the moment when we think no one is looking. The fashion industry is about time and not following trend, rather creating a trend with your own visual style. Learning to be both relevant and timeless is always a challenge in fashion.
What excites you about Loculars?
Loculars brings a new format that provides the opportunity for intimate and exclusive photo experiences. Both these aspects are pretty compelling. With “Art of Backstage,” a participant gets real backstage access with me at New York Fashion Week – that’s the kind of “exclusive” one gets through Loculars and it’s great for me as a photographer to be able to share that.
What’s next for you in terms of projects, areas of focus or interests?
Next for me is a body of work which will be shown for the first time in San Francisco during PhotoFairs called “Recent Work.” The series is an exploration of the visceral emotion without intellect, depicting portrait, figure, texture, and inanimate objects.