Mark Klett is a Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, and the Japan/US Friendship Commission. His work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally for 40 years and is held in more than 80 museum collections worldwide.
This year Mark will be joining us in Santa Fe to teach his class The Photographic Book March 24 - 29, 2019.
We had the opportunity to talk with Mark about his approach to photography and book making:
SFPW: Before you made a name as a photographer, you worked primarily as a geologist. As much of your work deals with time and the natural world, to what extent would you say your photography is influenced by your background in geology?
Mark Klett: I think my training in geology affected my photography in several ways. First, I love working outdoors, and that began with geologic fieldwork and making observation of the landscape. Second, learning about earth processes gave me an appreciation for deep time. It’s a sense of time’s passage and change that’s hard to understand from human experience alone. I came to see that space and time were linked, and their relationship became a primary focus in my work.
SFPW: Do you usually set out on your projects with the intention of creating a book or is that a secondary thought?
Mark Klett: I used to think of the book as a secondary product of making photographs. That once the project was finished a book could become a possible venue. But my thinking has changed over the years, so I usually begin new projects with the intention of making a book as primary product. There are many reasons for this shift, including changes in technology and greater options for publishing. But the effect is profound. Books require a different way of thinking about image relationships and coordinating groups to achieve a wholistic result. Plus, books are often a collaborative enterprise in design and production.
SFPW: What is the value of collecting your work in book form? For you, what is the difference between seeing an image as a standalone print and seeing it in a book?
Mark Klett: I was trained to think of photographs as conveying greater meaning when seen in relation to other images, rather than individually. Image editing and sequencing are among the most important skills a contemporary photographer can learn today. Books are a perfect vehicle for exploring groups of images. A well crafted book does not deny the power of individual photographs, rather it intensifies their impact. As a photographer, working on a book becomes a learning experience about one’s work. It’s an exciting form of discovery about the power of photographs, and I find that to be a very fulfilling experience.