Photographer’s Q&A – Mark Blinch
This week’s Q&A is with Toronto photographer Mark Blinch, Reuters. His web site is markblinch.com.
Washington – An attendee at the National Mall celebrates by the Washington Monument during the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009. (Photo by Mark Blinch/ Reuters)
What were your first steps in the industry?
When I was 16, I took a high school photography class. I became very obsessed with photography and spent a lot of time after school in the darkroom developing pictures. I got a Pentax Super ME and 50mm lens for my 17th birthday and never looked back.
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation? Are you where you thought you would be now?
I spent four years at Ryerson University making art photography. I was hoping to jump into the commercial world. I often tell people I will never show anyone anything I made during that period because it would be completely embarrassing. I always knew I wanted to be a photographer. I just didn’t know what kind of photography I would do to make a living.
In my final semester, I needed to fill a co-op credit to complete my degree, so I contacted Peter Jones at Reuters. I spent my internship shooting NHL and NBA games, and became addicted to the ink. University was about figuring out what I didn’t want to do and I don’t regret it because I am now doing something I love.
Toronto – The Canadian flag is seen atop a flagpole in the midst of high-rise buildings in the financial district on April 3, 2009. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Reuters)
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
I am not sure if anyone is my inspiration. My drive comes from getting that ink in the paper. Working for the wires can be very competitive but seeing my byline in newsprint will always excite me. I know traditional newspapers will eventually be extinct, (but let’s hope not), but for now, pictures in the paper still remain (in my mind at least) the highest judge of competition at any assignment.
Do you have a mentor?
I have a couple of mentors, actually, the two most prominent being Peter Jones and Mike Cassese, both from Reuters. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be anywhere. They are both fountains of knowledge and experience.
I basically followed Mike around on assignments for about a year or so, and I owe him for the success that I have had in the short career I have had so far.
I have helped/watched Peter do edits for the Super Bowl, U.S. election night, and other major events. Being a part of those things helps me every day in shooting and filing.
Toronto – Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala is lit by a spotlight during the warm-up before the Leafs’ pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 26, 2008. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Reuters)
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I can remember the first time I got ink. I got the front page of the Toronto Star sports section. I suddenly realized, “wow, maybe I can actually do this for a career”. I was a month out of school and riding pretty high.
So, I applied for a Toronto Star internship with a portfolio of Reuters internship pictures, only to receive a rejection letter. How could they after putting me on their sports front?
The letter was humbling experience. I realized this business has a long ladder to the top. Although I am proud of my successes thus far, there is still a lifelong journey ahead and goals to reach.
What are you working on now?
I am working my ass off to pay down debt so next year maybe I can go on a big cool trip to work on a personal project.
How important to you is multimedia?
I am still trying to figure out how to make a living from it but I have been doing a few videos and having a lot of fun with it. These new cameras that shoot HD video make it a blast.
Toronto – Actor Alec Baldwin poses for a portrait during the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival. September 8, 2008. (Photo by Mark Blinch/ Reuters)
How do you ensure you are progressing as a visual journalist?
Recently it has been trying to stick to the basics. You gotta know the rules before you break em’, right? Early on, I was trying so hard to be different. Then I realized there is no need for Magnum-style photos from a boring presser or a Jim Flaherty luncheon photo-op. This isn’t to say that I don’t try my best to get a different picture every time out, but sometimes it is what it is!
As far as progressing goes, making mistakes is how I progress. Not that I am always willing to admit them out loud but we all make mistakes. It is the absolute best way to learn and, in my opinion, the only way to properly mature as a “visual journalist.”
What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education, etc.).
Not that anyone around here really needs to know these links, but it’s honestly what I look at to see who is doing what:
What is your favorite way to unwind?
A couple of pints of light beer and chicken wings at the best bar ever, Betty’s, on King Street East in Toronto. Or, watching baseball (but being a major Blue Jays fan, it’s lately been frustrating rather than relaxing).
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
Don’t kneel down in front of a horse, unless you want your head kicked off.
Various pictures of a sign displaying TSX information. This is sort of an inside joke but I take this sign very seriously. Since we don’t have any traders like the NYSE in Canada, Toronto photographers have to shoot this silly sign for our end-of-day markets stories. The challenge is trying every single angle possible. One of these I shot with a 600mm lens! Ridiculous, but I love it. (Photos by Mark Blinch)