Archive for July, 2016



You know, I know already that I work my ass off to make pictures that (I fantasize) other people don’t see. I mean, I really try to see differently and photograph differently and render differently and find a perspective or point-of-view or a slab of light that maybe hasn’t been noticed, at least in the same way, by anyone else.

I always thought that, to be a real artist, this was what you had to do. To never repeat yourself, never compromise, to always start fresh without preconception or recollection, to avoid at all costs repetition and formula, to wake up every morning breaking new ground and creating from scratch.

As you can imagine, this makes for an exhausting life – especially in youth when the effort required to always strive for originality is constant. Only in age do I realize that over time that effort becomes breath, and the result is simply living, and it can no more cease to function than the lungs can end their involuntary expansion and contraction. The effort is oddly diminished as the habit confirms a life. And so the images grow more obscure, more confounding and cryptic, as the need for their existence becomes imperative, no doubt seen as even more accidental and unnecessary when revealed to the world.



©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved




I don’t know about you, but I think it’s magical, or spiritually conceived, or the power of a universe beyond my comprehension, when something like this comes together in front of me – a convergence of nothing that makes shapes and colors and light and emotion – and I’m able to step outside myself, away from the pressures of taxes and elections and cat throw-up and bills – for a single moment, long enough to see what’s right in front of my face and pull the camera from the bag, as much as from my soul, and fire it up and compute the necessary exposure calculations just right and adjust the focus so’s I’ll not screw it up showing the wrong part, and keep the things inside the frame that aren’t supposed to be forgotten forever outside the frame, and pull it all together for that fraction of a second that snags the moment that says “I saw this and want to share it with you because I don’t really care if you think it’s important or not but it IS to me and I LIVE to infect just one of you with the magic of the thing I saw and captured and made you look at and share it’s vibration and energy too.

I can only hope that I can do this for the rest of my life without regard for whether it’s viewed or received or appreciated or paid for, because the honest truth is that I do it for myself – it’s a selfish and self-perpetuating indulgence that must satisfy me first, and then anyone else? … whatever. And if it wasn’t that, it would be in the service of a client, a paycheck, a meal and a bed – and that would ultimately compromise my process, and that, well… that, is just no longer on the table.



©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved




Except for that woodpecker in my neighbor’s tree and a whish of traffic, the conversation between terriers through a fence a block away, some faint skateboard scratching on the sidewalk, alternating chirps and birdsongs, the padded footfalls of an avid jogger, one chattering squirrel, that distinctive upshifting from a muffler-challenged scooter, the doppler echo of classic rock out the window of a passing pickup, an invisible Lear on approach to downtown, kids laughing (but I see no kids), Louis’ yawn, tiny chicklet sounds from my laptop, and whatever is said between a robin and a worm…

except for all that

it is silent

in this surreal hour when the cloud-covered sky chokes the end of the day, and the light fades, and the exposure difference between available and incandescent balances in the middle to hand off the world to the kingdom of night.



©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved

OPEN CARRY (cameras, that is)


Louis and I woke at 5 this morning to thunder cracks and the violent gestures of trees from which we were separated by only a thin pane of glass and a wisp of curtain. Committed to awake, and a fresh cup of coffee and half-a-can of some chicken-vegetable-cat-casserole later (the coffee mine, the chicken for Louis), we decided to watch the night subside and listen as the storm made its Doppler crawl across the map.

Downstairs my slideshow screensaver of some 3000 images was still cycling on the flat screen, and as I cracked open the laptop to continue research for an upcoming talk I was reminded of the power that images have to timeline a life. It is obvious, I know, that pictures prompt memories – but to sit and succumb, at 5-second intervals, to these records of presence, self-made proof of my own existence, I remember places and temperature and weather and smell, state-of-mind and wonder and confusion and intuition. Magic, really, how much non-visual information they contain.

On the laptop I read a review of another new smartphone – the latest miracle-phone – which said nothing about the telephonic capabilities but exclusively touted its DSLR-killer camera through the endorsements of “pro” photographers convinced it’s all the camera they’ll ever need, while the reviewer detailed the shortcomings of the image files – over-noise-reduced blobby jpegs with little detail and lots of grain made on a microscopic sensor, but using 2 lenses instead of one. This is the latest technology designed, or at least described, to replace your camera.

And so I confess that I’m pretty thrilled (hurt my arm a bit trying to pat myself on the back, actually) that my little collection of memories flashing on the screen, inconsequential to most and which may never be viewed by more than the handful of visitors who witness my TV at rest, were made on professional cameras with enough resolution and rigorous processing to not only realize and recall the full experience which they record, but with the potential for display and reproduction beyond the ‘technical’ limits of the medium – on-screen, in books and as prints, even BIG prints – that will satisfy the professionally high standards of quality that I have worked a lifetime to achieve.

How disappointed I would be had I jettisoned my convictions about the value of exquisite capture for the convenience of expedient and inferior tools, and was limited to phone screens and emails to experience my life’s work.

My friend and mentor Bob Jones tells the story of his assignments shooting college football footage in the 16mm film days, when every frame had to be (expensively) processed to see what you got. “Only shoot the long passes and the touchdowns!” were his instructions before each game. Today “The best camera is the one you have with you.” recalls the same impossible (ludicrous?) thinking. If you make your greatest picture with an inferior camera, you end up with an inferior image – and the disappointment of knowing that you can’t go back and do it right, and that you really knew better all along.

As I always have, I advocate an open-carry pro-camera policy for professional photographers. Write your congressman.


©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved