There is something disappointing and deeply alluring about an elusive artist, one who creates stellar, emotive work, but instead of allowing us to know them fully, they retreat. Mark A. Lark is one such photographer.
Mark’s work is filled with mystery. His self-portraits depict a man in transition. He is cool but often too aware of himself, not quite comfortable but attempting to surrender. In self-portraits where his gaze connects directly with ours, it oftentimes feels as if he’s attempting to communicate a robust sadness, a longing.
I discovered his work on Instagram in 2015. His images, mostly self-portraits and unrefined experiments with shooting film struck me as somehow both deeply romantic and obviously heartbroken. These days he uses social media more as a sounding board, posting images a few times a year to let people know that he is working and still living. Over the years his work has grown far more intentional, it feels focused and unflinching.
His color photographs feel like film stills from a Hype William’s music video or a cinematic approach to one of Yusef Komunyakaa’s poems, maybe After Summer Fell Apart or Rock Me, Mercy. So often they tap into the senses, I can feel the sepia light bulbs humming from above and I can hear the D’Angelo, Voodoo blaring in the background inside of his lonesome one-bedroom apartment in downtown Orlando, Florida. There is an undeniable soul to his images.
When he turns his lens outward, it is with deep tenderness and adoration for his subjects. He loves Black people in his images, holds them in an honest embrace. His photographs are all intimacy, all the time.
At a time where most photographers 32 and under feel tethered to the validation of social media, it gives me hope to see a photographer like Mark, unconcerned with anything outside of doing his work. He’s not well known (yet). We have no idea how his work will develop over the coming years, but I’ll be listening intently because he absolutely has something to say.
Gioncarlo Valentine, a writer and photographer based in New York, is guest editing this week’s Photo of the Day feature.