Mark Aghatise is a New York based fashion photographer and videographer interested in explaining and expanding Black narratives in contemporary form.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you are from
My name is Mark Aghatise. I am a British born, Nigerian American. I am an artist but mainly known for my fashion photography. Oh, and I also really love color theory and design layouts.
What themes do you explore in your work?
Movement. Repetition. Masculinity and femininity. Gaze and power. I try to bring nuance and personalize the images I capture and I think why people may gravitate to my work is because of the intention in how I photograph, the framing and the colors. I constantly am studying how to bring a mood and story through a photograph.
You shoot mainly portraits of males. Who are the subjects that you focus on and what is their significance to you?
Subjects range from models, to friends, to literally people I meet on the street or in a grocery store. I honestly find everyone visually interesting or know of ways to expose that through photography. Often I see images by non-black photographers of black individuals and it reads as stale. There's no emotion, no history, no humanization of the person but rather them rendered as an object. It's something I'm thankful that I don't do and a point I make to avoid.
With the guys I shoot, regardless in the difference in how they look compared to me, I view them as extensions of myself. My men's fashion photography boils down to a self study of myself via another body as a vector. When I work with these guys, I see myself and thus know how I want to be captured. A lot of times, I even choreograph them or bend and move them to get the shot that I imagine.
Tell us about your journey into photography. When did you first know that this is what you wanted to do?
Well, photography has always been around me. My parents photographed everything when I was growing up. I took my first photo class back in high school and spent most of it using my sisters and subjects for projects (I've actually been photographing them since 2010 and one day want to show the hundreds of images I have taken of them). But getting into fashion photography didn't happen until the end of college and it mainly was me testing what worked and didn't work. As well as color theory through editing and shooting, angles that best highlight a person's features or the clothes, and body positioning to read natural to the camera and to not obstruct the garments. I spent a lot of time looking at fashion photographers' images and understanding what made it appeal to me. Like I literally have a journal at home full of detailed dissections of images I love, broken down to the most minuscule of details.
Once I learned how to communicate my ideas well through the lens, fashion photography has now become a fun hobby and another medium I use to express myself.
Do you feel that LGBT community is widely represented in your country? Please elaborate
This is hard because I feel native to the different parts (countries) that comprise my identity. I will speak on the States. In regards to the US, I think in the past there was a more radical understanding of the LGBT community because of how marginalized the group was and the physical spaces they shared. Now in 2017, it is very white-washed and very white cisgendered male orientated. Do I feel represented? Sure. But are transwomen of color, specifically black transwomen of color represented as much as the rest of the group? No, and that's a problem. Until we are all equal in that regards then the work is not finished, especially considering that black queer and transwomen were at the forefront of both the feminist and LGBT movements. We must do better.
What do the following words or statements mean to you? Self-expression. Freedom. The power of art.
Self-expression: when your authentic true self is so evident, so honest, it becomes unavoidable.
Freedom: blackness and all that it encompasses.
The power of art: adding another perspective to the collective consciousness and history of humanity.
Are there any future projects that you are working on that you would like people to look out for?
I have a show in the fall with a friend of mine for a project we won a grant for at our school. It's centered around the African textile economy! Hmm. I'm also working on my second zine, a short collection of journal entries and photography. Oh! And I'm also working on a tee shirt line that will release in a few months with a lookbook. Fashion photography wise, it's funny because almost 100% of the time, someone reaches out to me to bring me onto a project or brand collaboration so those happen when they happen.
Photography: Mark Aghatise