The Mark Sink Mixtape
If you are new to our Mixtape features, The Mixtape Series presents profiles of movers and shakers in the fine art photography world, often reviewers at portfolio events and taste makers in their own right.
When I was starting out in photography, Mark Sink was an early inspiration. I spent hours looking his dreamy images of New York City and his ethereal nudes shot in studio, both subjects captured with a toy camera. He was one of the first (and perhaps the only) photographer to shoot fashion and editorial with a cheap plastic camera in the heady days of NYC, achieving results that were other worldly. I was also intrigued by Mark’s connection to Andy Warhol and The Factory, documenting the lives and works of not only Warhol, but Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rene Ricard and other art stars of the 1980s.
I kept an eye on Mark’s career when he moved back to his home town of Denver and began creating exquisite wet plate portraits. Not one to sit still, he co-founded the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver and opened his own gallery space, Gallery Sink. His latest role of photography mover and shaker is that of Director of The Month of Photography Denver, a biennial celebration of fine art photography with hundreds of collaborative public events throughout Denver and the region March and April 2017. Included are multiple museums galleries and schools surrounding fine art photography creating an exciting artistic and educational event for the city of Denver and the region. On April 8th and 9th, MoPDenver, will host Portfolio Reviews, with prestigious national reviewers to offer opportunity and feedback. You can register for the reviews here.
Mark is someone who has been able to continue an active and meaningful photographic practice but also creates a myriad of opportunities for photographers around the globe. His expansive generosity and out of the box thinking makes Mark Sink a very important part of our community, and we are grateful to him for all he has brought to photography.
Today, Mark is a private art consultant and photographer. He represents and curates local and international cutting-edge fine art photography. Mark serves on the exhibition selection committee RedLine Contemporary Art Center Denver, a downtown city block of new exhibition space and multimedia studio work spaces that are granted to selected emerging and mid-career artists and exhibitions. Mark is founder and director of MOP (Month of Photography) in Denver, biannually coordinating over hundred eighty regional galleries, museums and art spaces to celebrating photography in mass. A project of note within MoP is the Big Picture, an international street art exchange wheat pasting photography in the open air and gallery spaces in over fifty cities worldwide.
Mark is also an internationally recognized photographer who through the 1980s, was friends, worked for, and documented Andy Warhol and his Factory. Upon returning to Denver in 1991, Mark co-founded the Museum of Contemporary Art / Denver and opened his own gallery space Gallery Sink. Now, Gallery Sink consulting, Mark is independently curating a wide range of emerging talent many found from Fotofest, SPE, and Photolucida, placing them with internationally recognized photographers into various galleries and museum exhibitions. Mark is always on the search for unique talent for his many ongoing curatorial exhibitions, projects, and collection placements. Directly from FotoFest 2012 Meeting Place, Mark exhibited work in the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and RedLine placed many pieces into private and public collections. He looks for work that has craft, completed thought, in series and is ready for presentation in a professional gallery or museum setting.
And now, the Mark Sink Mixtape!
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography.
My parents are artists, so I was raised a very creative environment and community. I grew up in a then rural suburb of Denver, Englewood Colorado. We had horses in the back yard, nature and creeks near our home. I am a left handed dyslexic, so school from the start was a challenge. They didn’t know what dyslexia was in those days. I was stupid and smart at the same time. But, I was the slow kid in the back of the class behind trying to figure out what was going on. Then along came a music teacher (Ruth Steel) who instilled a belief in me with art and music that changed the direction my life; she saved me. She had me write about everything I saw when I sat alone at recess in a field. She gave me cameras and paints and tools to explore with in my reclusive world that later was exhibited and celebrated with fanfare. It’s amazing what one great teacher can do for a lost child.
Later in State college, I again was near failing in academics. But, certain teachers saw something in me, like my British literature professor at Metro State, the dean of liberal arts, Dr. Phillip Boxer; he greatly encouraged my creative writing…and his daughter Sarah Boxer is a photography critic and arts writer at the NY Times and recently the Atlantic Monthly. At that time I never understood why people went to school to study art .. you just made art. It’s how I grew up. I soon found out it was an amazing time to have access to wonderful facilities and kilns and litho stones and instruction to studio art and the history of art. And it was more of an epiphany when I found that you could make fine art with a camera. That was an exciting period of exploring .. kind of Starn Twins like ..very irreverent to the medium ..scratching emulsion off, pissing on prints, colorizing taping folding cutting holes. This was encouraged by my heroes, Barbara Houghton and Ruth Thorne Thomsen. Against school policy, we were given keys to the photo labs, and we ran wild with many dozens of all nighters till the first classes started the next morning. Finding an art community in college was great. It was fun to go from the bottom of the class to the top. The college administration loves that sorta thing, and I was placed on the Colorado scholar list. Kind of a Forest Gump story.
What is your title and job description and tell us about a typical day?
I wear many hats and titles .. Probably photographer, teacher, and director of the Month of Photography. And the Big Picture… A few months ago, I became a father. So, father has been top of the title list recently. So father, photographer and festival cheerleader is probably the best for now.
Ok ..typical day.. I will list out what is on my agenda for today. The Month of Photography 2017 is heating up, along with my email box with slotting in a couple hundred photo openings and, as always, lectures and portfolio reviews. It’s so exciting having the art community stepping up and helping get the inertia rolling. I am just a cheerleader with my pom poms. Great people like Katie Harwood (Big Bad Betty Press) have taken a MoP oar stirring up Boulder with all sorts of exciting new programs. Amazing Samantha Johnston and the Colorado Photographic Art Center are taking things to higher levels. RedLine Contemporary Art Center is the hub of MoP, directed by my hero Louise Martorano…Look girls girls girls…power girls…girls run my world…My life could not go forward without my wife Kristen and Russian assistant Dasha Baulina.
Today I am in the middle of locking in details getting PhotoLucida’s Critical Mass top 50 to Denver. Also securing a regional survey of High School photography into a busy gallery called Edge. I have been working with Amy Miller at Atlanta Celebrates Photography; she is our new board chair of the Festival of Light (which I am proud to say I was a cofounder of in the mid-nineties. I organized the first website). We are working on plans to have a system of sharing available exhibitions from our various members from countries all over the world. Sitting next to me now are my assistants who are on a mission to get a large body of my work up onto the new Getty Images. They recently a bought Corbis, in which I also had work. Content monsters controlling the world.. I figure it’s better having old work up with an agent on-line then sitting on my hard drive in a closet. A big new art hotel is going up in downtown Denver (The Born), and my wife Kristen is deciding the best selections to present. It’s curated by Adam Lerner of MCA Denver.
Also, we are picking and submitting work for a show Kristen and I have this fall at the Museum of Outdoor Arts. I found out Colorado photographers can submit work to a new online venue, ART CO with the Dikeou Collection here in Denver. I assemble work for that. At dawn with baby Poppy in my lap, I started my draft invite for a small fundraiser for MoP coming up in a couple of weeks that needs to get out right away, so people come. For the fundraiser, I am using mostly my work for a silent auction down a lovely gallery a half a block from our home called Entre Nous. It’s owned by an organic farm to table restaurant call Z Cuisine Ecote. The owners are art collectors and trade meals for art !! OMG nothing better. I have to start my August MoP newsletter. Once a month I have an idea and planning meeting in our garden at the house. I invite anyone that wants to come in the photo community to present ideas for what they want to do during MoP 2017. It’s gallery owners and curators and students and anyone that wants to get plugged into the photography community. Here is the catalog of from MoP 2015.
I am meeting with a new art director for a new Month of Photography logo and poster. I might crowd source it also ..anyone want to try?
I have a backlog of portraits that i did last week i need to do post production touch ups on..
Its a endless list .. I will stop now.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
Getting Andy Warhol’s home phone number? Haha, no, but it did unlatch the door to escaping out of my self-imposed Denver bubble and head into NYC. Making it work and exhibiting in the big city are some of my best achievements and memories. Later helping start and being an interim director of our Museum of Contemporary Art is top of the list…Me, a college dropout, miracles do happen. We had MCA’s first board meetings in my backyard. Currently is The Month of Photography festival and the Big Picture. Of course having a beautiful baby girl is one of the top most amazing achievements of my life.
What do you look for when attending a portfolio review?
I believe better the concept better the picture. New ideas, personal voice, mastership of craft. Dedication and hard work achieving a goal. I love artists that explore and let the magic of chance happen. I love images that talk to you and lead you around the surface. Great work never grows old it keeps giving year after year.
Any advice for photographers coming to a review event?
I am a gentle reviewer because I was a slow starter in life, I like to try to find something interesting in all kinds of work. I tend to be supportive to all levels of accomplishment. But my advice is to be prepared for really mean reviewers that hold the bar very high, they can really beat you up for the intellectual sport of it. Many reviewers have been on the festival circuit for decades reviewing a tsunami of new work from fresh faces coming out the art schools and universities yearly, so often they play tough love and gotta have tough skin. Come with completed thoughts, and it helps to arrive with a completed series ready for exhibition (but not mandatory). Less than 20 images and don’t try and show more than one or two series. Loose raw prints… Not in 1970s shiny (worse scratched) vinyl sleeves in a binder book..no no. Never ever apologize for ANYTHING. If something’s wrong, just ride it out. We all know how the world works is about who you know .. doors open with one art professional sending you to another. At the end of the review, ask who they recommend showing this work to.
Not necessarily related to one on one reviews but is an another angle I often do to find a venue to exhibit work. It’s my personal way of getting the art industry’s attention is to self-create/curate a group or collection of artists you highly admire. Gather them around you. Its power in numbers. I did this for many years with a group I assembled called the Denver Salon. It’s a pre-assembled show. Galleries and museums curators sometimes like this pre-curated package they discovered. I found sometimes it can be better odds than going it alone. We got shows all over–NYC, Aspen, Denver Art Museum. I am doing it now with The Denver College Club ..we have members for all over the world that I invited. We have salon meetings with the members from other countries joining us live on Facetime. It’s so modern.
Beginning of the internet days in the early 1990s We created an online chat room group called FAB (Fine Art Board) we assembled shows all over the country. We called them Off the Highway. The Wall Street Journal wrote us up as the first “Photography exhibit taken from the internet. ” A website is still up with our old crew, and many are to this day are very close friends. In a way, I am doing it now with MoP and the Big Picture. I spend blood money out of my own pocket to make these projects happen. People really think I am crazy doing it without sponsorship, but I find the return of attention and being on people’s radar returns ten fold with personal sales and endless connections and commercial work down the road. I hate money mixed with art..it pollutes it at so many levels with me. With sponsorships for you have to be goody goody two shoes. You are representing that corporation or foundation. The 10k or so I spend out of my pocket for my varied projects is freedom. MoP Denver and others will probably be passed on to a real business minded administration one day soon. It is a golden egg. I am better at just getting things going and the pistons firing then they become a real job and its not as fun anymore.
My newest dream is to get a giant photography and new media art center built. Like how we got MCA Denver started. It’s exciting to see the community come together in a giant ground swell and make it happen.
What is something unexpected that we don’t know about you?
I love to cook. I make a killer New Mexican green chile sauce, that can go into a rice and cheese casserole to send you to the moon .. I make a pretty good red chile also. My mom grew up in Santa Fe NM so a few of her Pueblo Indian specialties have been passed down. It’s all in the heirloom chile. I love starting community gardens to integrate into and pay forward in tough anti-white neighborhoods. My dream is to one day have one acre of land to self-sustain growing your own food for your family and have lots of extra for neighbors and helpers.. wind and solar and thermal coupling to also share with the community… and a simple velvet light, north light studio to make portraits like Disfarmer…. add an photographic art center also once I’m dreaming.
And since this is a Mixtape, what is your favorite song, band, and do you dance?
I am very eclectic on music .. love all types from experimental to classical. I am a dancing fool .. I love to go straight into a club just to dance, straight to the dance floor. I am usually the twice the age of anyone out there. I don’t care. It feels so good. Its a happy place and so good for you.
Our first dance our wedding a few years ago was Danger (Been So Long) by Mystikal featuring Nivea.
I listen to classical when printing in the darkroom. When a great print comes up then I put on a dance tune to celebrate .. I love dancing in the darkroom with a new image I love. I just got concert tickets for me and Kristen for a Die Antwoord; they are so super wild and fun. Love their videos. I am finding I like Punk Rock again of all things..you can hear the lyrics now with these great new headphones .. a couple of bourbons and playing loud bad boys like Black Flag or Clash is soooo fun.. it’s so honest and real….
Below is my darkroom music dancing list…
I Feel Good James Brown
Play That Funky Music White Boy James Brown
CAMILLE_Ta_Douleur – Camille
Devil’s Pie D’Angelo Voodoo
Sex Machine James Brown
Wannabe Spice Girls
HEY MIKEY! Spice Girls
Disco Porno MusicPorn Groove
I Heard It Through The Grapevine Gladys Knight & The Pips
Rock Your Body Justin Timberlake
igned, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
Stevie Wonder For Once In My Life
Little Freak (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
WHATEVER YOU LIKE (DIRTY)T.I.
Push It Salt-N-Pepa
I’m So in love with you Al Green
Al Green – Here I Am
Tired Of Being AloneAl Green
Up Down Etta James
Poker face Lady Ga Ga
Just DanceLadyGa Ga
Love Hangover Ross, Diana
If You Want Me To Stay Sly And The Family Stone
Baby Got Back
YMCA The Village People
Bust A Move Young MC
Sexual Healing Marvin Gaye
Build The Bridge Deee-Lite World Clique
Deep Ending Deee-Lite
Who Was That? Deee-Lite
Groove Is In The Heart Deee-Lite
E.S.P. Deee-Lite World Clique
What Is Love?Deee-Lite World Clique
Smile OnDeee-LiteWorld Clique Electronica/Dance
Try Me On…I’m Very You
Power Of Love Deee-Lite World Clique
Good Beat Deee-LiteDance
Deee-Lite Theme Dance
Dance to the Music Sly & the Family Stone Dance to the Music
Louie LouieThe Kinks
Fire Burning The Dancefloor Sean Kingston
Beautiful, Dirty, Rich Lady Gaga
The Fame Lady Gaga The Fame
Boom Boom Pow Black Eyed Peas
I gotta feeling Black Eyed Peas
Bootylicious Destinys Child
Back That Ass Up Juvenile 400 Degree
I Like To Move It Move It Shaggy
You Spin Me Right Round Marilyn Manson
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) Dead or Alive
I Love Rock ‘N Roll Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Smooth Criminal Michael Jackson Bad
Snoop Dogg)Katy Perry California Gurls (feat. Snoop Dogg)
Yeah! (feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris)Usher Confessions
I gotta feeling Black Eyed Peas
Boom Boom Pow Black Eyed Peas
Cha Cha Slide (Club) Casper Cha Cha Slide
Danger (Been So Long) Mystikal featuring Nivea
Family Affair Mary J. Blige No More Drama
Let the Music Play Shannon The Best Is Yet to Come
Blue Monday New Order Power, Corruption & Lies
Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
Pocket Calculator Kraftwerk Computer World
The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight Dominatrix
The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight (Beat Me Mix)
Ding Dong Song Gunther & the Sunshine Girls
We Are Family Sister Sledge
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)\Beyoncé I Am… Sasha Fierce
Ho Hey The Lumineers
Four Brothers The Manhattan Transfer
Tuxedo Junction The Manhattan Transfer
Wild Horses The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers Rock
Midnight Rambler The Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction The Rolling Stones Forty Licks
Blood On The Dance Floor Michael Jackson
Beat It Michael Jackson
Thriller Michael Jackson
Bad Michael Jackson
Damn Girl Justin Timberlake
Eye of the Tiger Survivor
Under Pressure Queen
Michael Jackson – Black or White
Madonna- Lucky Star
No Diggity Blackstreet
Erotic City Prince & Sheila E.
Shinning Star Earth Wind and Fire
Come Dance With Me (Sugardaddy Remix – Tom Findlay
The Girl from Ipanema Stan Getz
Love Will Keep Us Together Captain & Tennille
Mack the Knife Bobby Darin
When The Music’s Over The Doors Strange Days
Touch Me Gunther Pleasure Man
Free Falling Tom Petty
I Saw Her Standing There (Ft. John Lennon) Elton John
Hello, I Love You The Doors
Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
Skating Polly the Lost Wonderfuls
St. Martin in the Fields & John Constable
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Requiem for a dream Mozart
Glass: Glassworks – Philip Glass
Miles From Nowhere Cat Stevens Tea For The Tillerman
And now we turn the Mixtape over to Mark…
I picked a selection of my exploratory work thru the years .. my work is more for the heart then the head. I am not going to break any new barriers. I am crazy for beauty of all kinds. Over all through the decades its mainly been portraits..very simple ..I go reverse technology, from my beginnings with the Toy camera Diana in the 1970s – 90s. And the Polaroid SX-70 to this turn of the century Wet plate Collodion. Current new work is lots of fun new collage and making paper negatives with my big old view cameras. One is 16×20 ! And my newest oldest sidekick is my Hasselblad that I bought in 1981 and used on and off throughout my career. Its such a beautiful timeless tool.
One of my biggest grumps of our modern era is the planned obsolescence of image making equipment we are all sucked into like lemmings…then add the software mafia hitting you up for vast amounts monthly….Its crazy. I shoot every week with my great grandfather’s camera and lens and the Hasselblad, timeless and universal for ever. I will be giving those cameras to my baby daughter one day to use. My six thousand dollar Nikon D4 is an amazing tool and workhorse, it’s opened a giant new world of capturing magic light. Like after sunset for that beautiful Vermeer liquid light, film cannot get… but sadly, The D4 will be dead in less then dozen or so years and time to buy new again. Boy they got us right where they want us. That’s my grumpy old man rant everyone knows I guess .. Sorry to end with that .. I am grateful to be in this amazing free world and my life being able to make and share the art of photography.
Thank you Mark, for all you do for photography!
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