“Even more so when I went back to England,” he says. “The place felt so tame. Everywhere I went I felt like I was walking into somebody’s garden. I really needed to go to somewhere like Yorkshire or Scotland to get away into the wild. I’d got used to the wildness of Australia which is what I love about the place. And that’s really what, I think, dragged me away from doing advertising work. “On the weekends – just to keep sane – I’d go away to the bush with friends to escape the stresses and strains of working commercially, and I became increasingly entranced with the magic of these landscapes. I thought, ‘Well, I just want to get to grips with this because this is what I’m really interested in’. After 15 years of advertising work – where you’d sweated blood to get a shot ready for a deadline and pretty much the next day you’d be wrapping your chips with it – I was really questioning the worth of what I was doing. I wasn’t learning anything new, I was just repeating myself so I decided to take a risky leap of faith and move into landscape photography.”
All Or Nothing
Despite no family commitments and having amassed reasonable savings, it was still a very big move at the time, especially as Mark decided it was ‘all or nothing’ and left the city to live in the country.
In 1978 he sold his home in North Sydney and moved to the north coast of NSW from where he began mounting photographic expeditions to various parts of Australia which would last a month to six weeks. Initially he was shooting with Widelux 35mm panning-type cameras which he describes as “…lovely, but notoriously unreliable” so he switched to the medium format Linhof Technorama which he has used ever since.
“At present I use the lens off number one with the body off number two and the back off number three because they’ve become so worn out over the years.”
In the late 1970s though, panorama cameras were still very much the domain of a few dedicated specialists and the popularity of the format, especially for landscape photography, was still very much in the future.
“Yes, at the time really the only other people shooting panoramas with dedicated cameras were Philip Quirk who was doing landscapes and Wes Stacey who was doing B&W work on a Widelux. Of course, panoramic photography in Australia has a fine, fine history and goes all the way back to the likes of Holtermann’s wonderful studies from the 1880s. But when I got involved there wasn’t really anybody particularly promoting the idea of panoramic photography and I can remember taking a doublepage spread in the Wizards of Oz – I think it was one of the first issues – just extolling the virtues of a camera that could get you three times the picture in one shot.”