NEVILLE: Your photography flirts with the fashion context, but it's not the whole of your work.
MARK: I still consider myself a fashion photographer. I'm interested in using fashion as an instrument to find another way to create an image.
NEVILLE: You've always chafed at the limits set by the conventions of mainstream fashion editorial.
MARK: I struggle with the image being controlled by an aesthetic that's not inherent to the photograph. I was never able to get that across ... I was always finding myself in arguments with editors. It just got to the point that I had to stop. There was no way to carry on.
NEVILLE: Is that partly because fashion is ultimately about end result rather than process?
MARK: Yeah, it is. There were too many people involved and too many different, conflicting ideas.
NEVILLE: In contrast, you usually have complete carte blanche when you shoot advertising campaigns.
MARK: I've always had that luxury. I'll take this Nike shoe or this keyboard from an IBM computer and literally just walk around with it for the day I'll misplace it, put it in places where it doesn't belong, and photograph it.
NEVILLE: So that's why I've seen you carrying around odd shoes and strange folding chairs ... and IBM keyboards.
MARK: Yeah, the agency has already controlled the image by selling the campaign to the client.
NEVILLE: Is the mission to change the system, or simply not to be changed by the system?
MARK: You can't change the system, but you can re-approach it. Every individual has another approach.
NEVILLE: Tell me about how you display your work in galleries, how that differs from the presentation on the page?
MARK: I'm not sure it differs yet. What does differ is the process, a period of a week or two when your mind is set on how you're going to approach the show or the space. I'm interested in slowing down the process, of really looking at what's there.
NEVILLE: You re-use a lot of your images in different contexts. It's like you have your own image bank.
MARK: Today, I'm certainly less interested in producing. I'm in a luxurious position because I've shot such a vast amount of work in the last couple years that if a magazine asks me for something, it's very rare that I go out and shoot it. I have all the material.
NEVILLE: When it comes to making new work, what's the motivation?
MARK: Life in general. On the one hand, I'll walk into my office at home and find inspiration amongst the chaos. Generally, I just thrive on that chaos. But when there's too much stuff going on, I move to an empty space outside.
NEVILLE: Are you seeking order out of chaos?
MARK: Yeah. I enjoy that. I initiate the struggle. I have to find the solitude, the simplicity within the chaos.
NEVILLE: To achieve simplicity, you isolate things you misplace and displace them.
MARK: I haven't figured out where things belong. I'm dyslexic so everything really does belong elsewhere. I definitely feel misplaced myself.
NEVILLE: There's a kind of absurdity that you introduce into the mix ... you photograph clothing draped on a chair, on the floor.
MARK: In a way, that's where clothing belongs. I shoot all the time. I record our lives my wife Maria, the kids, the chaos that I live in at home. For practice, I allow myself to take one photograph of my son Joey on the way to school and one on the way back. I have all these little rules I give myself ... unless it's a piece of furniture, then I'm allowed to do whatever I want with it.
NEVILLE: What do the other parents think, seeing you take a chair for a walk in Brooklyn?
MARK: It gives me a good reason to sit down, order a coffee, and have something to write about. You know, I take what I do quite seriously, yet on the other hand I have to laugh at it.
NEVILLE: This has been your routine for some time now, hasn't it?
MARK: It's a practice I put myself through every day. I really force myself. And I'm allowed to take one photograph of something I've never photographed before. So in the middle of every roll of film there's always a misplaced photograph, something that doesn't belong to me yet. Those are the photographs that help me find where to go next.
NEVILLE: It's the architecture of the prosaic, the unnoticed. You also depend on repetition.
MARK: I've photographed the same windowsill every single day since we've lived on Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn. I take two or three photographs of it, never touching it, just leaving everything as it is Joey's toys along with other things in accidental layers. It always becomes decorated because it's right in the corner of our bedroom where we sleep.
NEVILLE: What were you doing when you made the series of advertising proposals for Prada, Armani, and all the rest? You placed the company logos on different photographs of sidewalks that you've taken.
MARK: I was just trying to show how unimportant they've become that they're all the same. It all comes from the same source. They place so much weight on their image but they tend to lose their identities anyway. The same photographer who shoots for Gucci this season will shoot for Prada the next.
NEVILLE: Is there any advertising that you like?
MARK: Not really. It's more about believing in it. I remember when I first started taking fashion pictures, Franca Sozzani would always tell me that it's a dream world, a fantasy world. I tried to appropriate that in my work somehow, without giving it too much significance.
NEVILLE: Why do you take pictures of displaced clothing?
MARK: It's a reaction to the way magazines try to control the way you apply clothing to your body. But clothing belongs in so many places other than the body.
NEVILLE: Like the washing machine.
MARK: Clothes really do belong in-between. I'm interested in putting things where they don't belong, in hiding things. Say I photograph Joey hidden behind a sofa. I know that Joey's there, but nobody else who looks at the photograph knows that.
NEVILLE: Doesn't it make the image a secret? You're either in on it or you're not.
MARK: I wonder if it's just that life's full of secrets, secrets that you keep from others.
NEVILLE: Are you asking us to look at what's not there?
MARK: I'm inspired by this idea of absence, it could be nothingness or just the idea of stillness. It's about slowing down time. If you hide something in a photograph, you create stillness.
NEVILLE:What was it like photographing Erin O'Connor for index? You've worked with her before.
MARK: The most interesting thing happened. I sat her down in a chair I had borrowed and I started photographing her from behind. I turned around and there were bits of weeds and little nicely arranged things lying on the pavement. So I started photographing that stuff. Since Erin had her back to me she didn't see what was going on. I disappeared.
NEVILLE: So you described her absence.
MARK: That's dangerous isn't it? I'm trying to practice taking everything away. I'd like to just let the image be what it is not have any references whatsoever.
NEVILLE: Most people's lives are so full of white noise that it's very hard to ... nothingness requires a certain amount of contemplation.
MARK: Yes, but nothingness can give off signals, signals from things we see everyday and we ignore.
NEVILLE: Does it matter, then, what you're photographing?
MARK: No. I'm against the idea of giving too much importance to the image. That's why I have a big problem with the idea of showing my work in galleries. Galleries create this monumental idea of the framework and the mounting and the importance of hanging something on the wall. That's fine for them, but not for me.