About 8 years ago I was at flea market and stumbled across a large envelope full of old photographs taken in what I’m guessing was the 30’s. They were sepia snapshots of someone’s holiday in the Middle East, the photo’s where dodgy at best and clearly taken by someone on the obsessive compulsive side of snap happy, but there was also an underlying oddness that I found irresistible. People’s heads and limbs were cut out of frame, it appeared to be ghost like figures everywhere, and every second image was out of focus. I bought them all. Every now and then I get them out and flick through them, they still fascinate me. When I look at the photographs of Mark Peckmezian I get the same feeling I had when I first found that envelope of weirdness all those years ago, something otherworldly and yet still familiar, but that’s where the comparisons end because Mark’s photographs are actually really good and they ain’t no accident.
Tell us a little about your background, and the path that has led you to what you’re doing now?
I’ve always been interested in the arts, wanted to be a filmmaker at first, but then settled into photography in high school. I went to university for photography and graduated last year. Since then I’ve been doing commissioned work while working on my own art photography.
At what point did you decide you wanted to take photographs instead of pursuing filmmaking?
When I realised that filmmaking required giving up a lot of independence and relying on others.
And when did you realise that dogs where a worthwhile subject matter?
I was high on mushrooms one night last summer and took a snapshot of a dog in a park, and the photo really grew on me. I found myself thinking about it all the time, it appealed to something in me. I think it took a few weeks of sustained interest in this photo to wear down my hang ups with ‘dog photography,’ for me to feel comfortable with pursuing this. It’s a very disreputable genre of photography, seen as kitsch and amateur, and usually it is just that. But it also has a lot of hidden potential, I think, mostly because of how prosaic it is. When your subject matter is common-place enough, it almost stops being relevant, and other things, like style, come to the fore. Most of my dog photos aren’t really about dogs per se, they’re always about other things, using dogs as one would a prop.
You seem to treat them as if they were just another person that you are photographing, is that a conscious decision?
I sometimes do this, yeah. I don’t consciously try to photograph them as I would a human, so much as photograph them the same way, with the same motive and approach, that I often shoot humans. Often, with human subjects, I look for a ‘caricature,’ some sort of really bold distillation of their appearance or air or whatnot. Dogs have such vivid personalities, I think, every dog is a character, so they’re fun foils.
Do you have a dog of your own?
I don’t! I’d love to have one, it just isn’t practical for me right now.
Is there anything that you are obsessed with right now?
I have some new photo ideas that I’m excited about and eager to realize.
Do you collect anything? Creative people tend to be hoarders by nature.
I don’t know that I really collect anything. I guess my snapshot shooting is a form of collecting though, or can be seen that way.
What projects are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on a couple of magazine assignments and my own personal work. I have a gallery show next summer that I need to prepare for and some other small projects.
Is there an artist who has particularly influenced you?
Stanley Kubrick was my boyhood crush. His sensibility resonates with me.
What is the scariest situation that you’ve ever put yourself in?
I honestly can’t even think of anything; I’m not much of a risk taker, I think.
What is something that you have learned during the past 10 years?
That’s most of my adolescence, so a lot! A concise lesson, though, would be: integrity is more important than success.
Any daily rituals that you perform?
Bike rides, an hour or so at night around town.
Is there something that other people seem to care a lot about, that doesn’t matter to you at all?
People seem to care about money a lot more than I do, but maybe that’s just because I don’t have very much of it.
What about something that you do care about that others seem not to?
Something I care about a lot: Thinking time. I treat thinking as an activity in itself, something you need to devote time exclusively to. People seem to treat it as something that happens incidentally, as you go through your day. Of course some thinking happens like that, but the meaningful kind doesn’t, I think.
Ok last question, if you were a dog what breed would it be?
Probably some mutt-y thing.
We are thrilled to introduce Dog-Friendly, a collection of city guides for dog-loving people, created together with our long-time contributor, photographer Winnie Au, and fellow enthusiasts, indie publisher Hoxton Mini Press. Available for purchase here.
August 25, 2021
Have you ever imagined Amy Winehouse or Nick Cave as a Chihuahua, Neil Young as a Vizsla, or PJ Harvey as an Afghan hound? That’s exactly what San Francisco-based artist Michael Gillette has done through his unique illustration project, blending beloved, iconic music legends, both past and present, with their dog counterparts. Pack of Dogs, our first foray into book publishing, is a celebration of pup and pop culture for music and dog lovers alike.
August 25, 2020