|Elizabeth Lundblad of the New Castle Courier Times interviews author Mark Sean Orr about his
new collaborative book of photography titled "21st Century Photography Vol. 2" - "Embracing
Life".November 27, 2010
Elizabeth: What was the inspiration for "Embracing Life"? Is the title the main theme, and did it help
you focus what type of pictures you selected?
Mark: I chose the theme of "embracing life" because I wanted to show photographs depicting how
people across the U.S. and the world view their lives. I wanted to know what was important and
inspirational in their daily lives...what kinds of things were the most important to them. I chose some
of the photos for the book, the ones I really loved, but for the most part I let each photographer
choose their own selections. I like being surprised when I receive the photo submissions....and I was
that and more with this second volume of 21st Century Photography.
Elizabeth: What is your method for selecting and editing a book on photography? Are there certain
challenges to editing photography over another artistic medium, like short stories or poetry?
Mark: With this series of books, I started with a small group of friends I met online who were really
great photographers. The first volume included 22 photographers and this second volume has 30. I
wanted to showcase their work with my own and create a book that we could all be proud of and
hopefully get each photographer some recognition. We now have a group of photographers on
Facebook (started by friend and fellow photographer AyJay Schibig) that has a membership of over
3,000 photographers. Editing the books is mostly a labor of love. The only part that can be difficult
is getting 30 people together...sending in their submissions and biographies for the books and
creating a layout for their art that they are happy with. This is a great group of people though and
even though we all have different schedules and even different time zones...it has worked out really
well. I think editing a book of short stories or poetry would be a bit easier, at least when it comes to
Elizabeth: What do you think makes a "good picture"? How would you describe one? Does a good
photograph tell a story, or does it seek to bring up certain emotions, or does it give a call to action,
Mark: For me..a good picture includes any or all of the above. It tells a story, stirs emotions or
incites a call to action. A good photo often makes us smile or cry or feel nostalgic. I think the
photographer should know the technical aspects of his camera and how to effectively edit the
photo, but that's not the most important part of what makes a good photo. A good photograph
makes you look in the scene rather than "at it". It makes you want to look at the photo again and
again. One of my favorite photographers, Robert Frank, had little or no regard for the "rules of
photography". He shot photos with crooked horizon lines, ignored the "rule of thirds" and shot
directly into the sun. I like photographers who aren't afraid to break the rules. I think intuition and
knowing your subject plays a part of taking a good photograph as well. Photo-journalist George
Tames who took the famous photo of John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office titled "The Loniest Job"
was masterful at his craft. He knew that Kennedy had a bad back and could not sit for long without
getting up to walk and ease his pain . So when Tames was given the opportunity to take a photo of
Kennedy he used that to his advantage. H e did not take a posed shot of Kennedy seated . He
waited until everyone (including himself) had left the room and from the corridor he watched as
Kennedy got up and leaned over the desk in front of the windows to rest his back. Tames stepped
into the room, framed the photo and took the famous photo that reflected Kennedy with the weight
of the world on his shoulders. Tames' daughter Stephanie, a writer and artist wrote the introduction
to this volume of 21st Century Photography.
Elizabeth: In the statement you sent to Randy (Randy Rendfeld - Courier-Times Editor) it said that
you found your love for photography while doing research in Henry County. Was your photography
career something that evolved out of serious study or are you self-taught?
Mark: I started taking photos for research purposes only. I had a cheap Kodak Easy-Share camera
and was interested in getting good photos that showed places and things related to my genealogy
research. Dates and information on tombstones, old churches and school-houses etc. As time went
on, I realized I really enjoyed photography and tried to get the best shot possible. I bought a better
camera and read every book on photography I could get my hands on. It was about this time that I
discovered the book Raintree County by hoosier Ross Lockridge Jr. In the novel there is a photo of
the Henry County Courthouse. I then decided that I wanted to take photos of Raintree/Henry County
as it is today. It's still as beautiful today as it was in the Civil War era setting of the novel and in the
1940's when the book was written and published, but much of the past is vanishing and I wanted to
preserve it in photos if I could.
Elizabeth: Over the years, has your style or method of taking photos changed as you matured as a
Mark: Definitely. When I started serioulsy taking photographs, a new technique known as HDR was
in it's infancy. HDR combines three differently exposed shots of the same subject to create brilliant
color, contrast and lighting. I thought I would always do HDR. As I grew as a photographer I started
appreciating the raw side of photography. I now love to develop photos in black and white and
without a lot of enhancement. PhotoShop is great...but there's something to be said for "natural"
photography and the classic elegance of black and white photography.
Elizabeth: What emotions or ideas do you most try to convey through your photographs?
Mark: I think the emotion or feeling I most try to capture with my photos is nostalgia. I love hearing
from people who tell me they enjoy a photo I took of something that reminds them of their childhood.
I think the "idea" behind my photography is that the places and things around us that we take for
granted may not be here a year from now...or even tomorrow. I got several requests for a photo I
took of the old Hillsboro Church. There were 100 years of stories and memories tied into that church
and suddenly it was just gone. Another example is a house in the 2400 block of Broad Street where
my great great grandmother lived after her husband, a Civil War solider died. Luckily I took some
photos of the house when I learned of it's history because a few weeks later it was torn down to
make a car lot.
Elizabeth: What does Henry County and its ties to your family bring to your work? Is it important to
you to connect viewers of your work to the past?
Mark: Almost every photo I take and all my research is absolutely tied to Henry County and it's
history. Branches of my family were here as early as 1824. They built churches and schools..worked
at the Maxwell and Krell Piano factories. They farmed the land and built houses and roads etc. I find
everything about the history of Henry County to be fascinating. I have some letters that were written
by my great great grandfather in 1890 describing everything from wheat prices to Sunday afternoon
baseball games. I want people to realize that their ancestry is an important part of who they are and
we all have a rich heritage. My website is all about Henry County and it's people. One of the things
I'm most proud of is a Heritage Award my site received for "Helping preserve the past for the future".
Elizabeth: Do you have a favorite area to shoot in New Castle/Henry County?
Mark: My favorite area would have to be east of New Castle in Liberty and Dudley Townships. I
make frequent trips to Batson Church and Cemetery and have photographed that area more than
any other. Another favorite area is south of New Castle on Road 40....it's a great place to take
photos with old homes, businesses and small town charm.
Elizabeth: Was it difficult to bring together the work of more than 25 different photographers and
artists to form a cohesive book on one theme/topic?
Mark: It can be difficult. Sometimes I would wait for weeks to receive photos from the photographers
and sometimes 4 or 5 would send everything at once. It's a great group of artists though and they
were all excited to be a part of the project. They all love what they do and it shows in their art.
Elizabeth: In your provided statement it says you recently sold several photos to Showtime TV for
the show "United States of Tara." What was that like, and has your photography crossed over into
Mark: Selling my work to Showtime is probably the most exciting thing that's happened since I
started taking photos. I received an email requesting permission to use my photos on the show
"United States of Tara", produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Diablo Cody. I thought it was
spam. I emailed them a few times and realized it was the real thing. I'm anxiously awaiting the
episodes that will have my photos in them. They will appear in season 3 on episodes 3 and 4. As for
other mediums....a photo I took at Summit Lake was used as the album cover for the German band
"Mindmovie" (musician/composer Achim Weiderschem) on his album "An Ocean of Dreams", in
videos featuring the music of Swedish composer Simon Husberg, in a book of poetry by poet Anne
Hogrefe ( Coming Home) and inspired some poems by poet/philospher Richard Mc Sweeney of
Ireland in his "Unto Lineage Royal" book.
Elizabeth: Where is your book available?
Mark: The new book is available at Blurb.Com.
Elizabeth: What is the cost?
Mark: The cost is: $30.95 for softcover, $42.95 for Image Wrap and $45.95 for hardcover.
Elizabeth: The formats available say softcover, hard cover and ImageWrap. What is ImageWrap?
Mark: ImageWrap is a hardbound book with the cover photo printed in the actual book as opposed
to having a dust-jacket.
Elizabeth: Finally, do you have any other projects in the works? (Another book, a gallery showing,
Mark: I have a few projects that I've started. One is a book about Batson Church and Cemetery
including the history of church members and those who are buried there. The history of the church
(which has so far proven elusive) and even some ghost stories . I also hope to include the diary
entries of Batson Cemetery Caretaker during the mid 1900's, Aldona Yauky.
Also in the works is a book about "family" which is another collaboration of photographers from
around the world and a tentatively scheduled album cover shoot for the Bobby Clark Band from
Thanks very much!
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|"21st Century Photography Vol. 2" - "Embracing Life"
|Richard Earl - Photographer
|Danka Dear - Photographer
|Dakota Sean Orr - Photographer