My career as a photographer has been a dream come true. I am excited and thankful to be able to use my work to give back to the community by joining forces with WhyHunger— Founded by the late musician and activist Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Ayres, artists have been a part of WhyHunger’s DNA since day one. I would have never imagined, back when I was 15 years old and sneaking my camera into concerts, that I would make a living out of doing this. The thought that, decades later, I might also be able to help those in need by donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of my photographs to charities was inconceivable.
In October, 2011, I became aware of a similar foundation, LUNCHBREAK, located in Red Bank, New Jersey, near where I live. The organization was holding its annual gala, and I offered up a photograph of Bon Jovi from a 1986 shoot of mine as a donation; it was auctioned off alongside a signed guitar from Jon. I look back at the event as a “feel good moment” for me, having been afforded an opportunity to help raise funds to assist those in need. It was the beginning of many more events and auctions to come. I would have never imagined, back when I was 15 years old and sneaking my camera into concerts, that I would make a living out of doing this. The thought that, decades later, I might also be able to help those in need by donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of my photographs to charities was inconceivable.
The first time I heard the voice of Harry Chapin was in the summer of 1974. I had just turned 13. My dad brought me to the record store to pick up his latest release, Verities & Balderdash; on the way home, he put the 8-track in and we began listening together as we drove. When “Cats in the Cradle” came on, our eyes met with bittersweet understanding of our relationship. I saw a change in my dad that summer—it was almost as if he was making up for lost time. As I got out of the car, my dad asked me if I wanted to go with him to work the next day. He was a door-to- door salesman who sold aluminum siding. I had a busy day planned mowing lawns, but as I closed the door I agreed to go. It was my dad’s experience in sales that helped me in my lawn-mowing business. He taught me: “Make them like you. If they open the door you have a chance. Connect with their eyes, and then introduce yourself. Most importantly, be sincere. Always let them know that you’re there to help make their lives better.”
I had a steady list of customers, but I was always looking for more lawns to cut. The next day I knocked on the door of a neighbor with a seriously unkempt lawn: “Hi, my name is Mark. I live down the street. I noticed your lawn is a bit long, can I help you by cutting it?” The neighbor told me he mowed his own lawn. I kiddingly replied, “It doesn’t appear that way.” He smiled and told me if I mowed his yard for the season, he’d give me a camera. Then he went inside and came back out holding a Bell & Howell Canon FP. It looked like it was worth a million bucks to me. I said, “Sure.” After a few cuts, he gave me the camera in good faith.
I loved everything about photography—directing, developing film, and most of all, printing and giving the photos to my friends and family. But high school began and, in time, I started to lose interest in taking photos. Aside from shooting a few family events, my camera took its place on my shelf as a paperweight. Then, at the end of my first year of high school, I saw the light. My older brother, Jay, surprised me with 10th-row tickets to see Eric Clapton and Santana at Nassau Coliseum for my birthday. My parents bought me a 200mm lens. On June 28, 1975, Jay and I made the two-hour trek to Long Island. Though I was stopped by security after shooting just a few frames, I managed to get a couple good photos of Clapton. I knew then and there I wanted to be a rock & roll photographer.