Date of Interview: October 20, 2016
Name: Mark Williams Hoelscher
Location: Washington, DC
What are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about telling people’s stories. I think that finding people whose life experiences are representative of larger social economic or social issues and telling those stories in a engaging and beautiful way can actively make social change. I think that there are people out there who are trying to make the world a better place, but don’t necessarily have the audience to get their message to the general public. One reason is because a lot of people who are doing important work are so focused in on what they’re doing, that the communication side isn’t at the front of their mind. I think it’s really important to have someone whose job it is to try and make people’s stories engaging, and to try and produce them in a way that people will want to pay attention to.
How do you go about telling these narratives?
I’m a photographer and filmmaker. Images are so important to the public consciousness, and it’s possible to make stuff that has real impact. I think that in the age of social media, where people are constantly bombarded with imagery, the only way to break through and make people interested in what you’re doing is to create something immediately eye catching, beautiful and cohesive. You gotta get people to stop scrolling down facebook or instagram and take a second to really look. One thing about Instagram and Facebook images is that they appear authentic and raw, but there’s something valuable about a well crafted and well produced story
Do you think there’s a difference between photographers using media and taking photos for the memories?
Everyone who takes photos is a photographer. The device that’s used (whether a cell phone or an expensive DSLR) isn’t really what makes someone a photographer. It’s the process. Photography is about intent and purpose. There’s a difference between going around snapping pictures without thinking, and giving considering to what you’re taking a picture of, why you’re taking a picture of it, and what information you can deliver through your photographs. When you’re taking pictures in an intentional way you’re crafting a story. You can use story and process to make social impact.
What is your story?
I’ve always had this innate desire to document. I think that photography is less about showing a moment and more about showing the perfect moment, the decisive moment. I think my story is my search or desire to find perfection that doesn’t really exist in real life. Trying to capture this one frame that shows who someone is or shows what an event felt like to be there. I think I’m looking for truth, but have strongly come to the conclusion that all photographs are lies. Photographs don’t tell the truth, they show the world through one person’s perspective. Photographs document what you wish was true.
What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual and otherwise.
I think that relationships are how we learn about ourselves. Having them and losing them are how we learn about ourselves. I think you don’t know truly who you are until you go through a really nasty breakup. We’re really social creatures, so having that give and take with having relationships and losing relationships is how we end up knowing who we are.
What is something that you struggle with?
I constantly struggle with the thought that everything I’m working towards is totally bullshit. That nothing I’m doing is important. There are some days I wake up and feel like what I’m working towards is good and positive and meaningful and other days I wake up and I think that nothing is real, art is bullshit and meaningless, and that is no way that I can make a difference. I also struggle with the idea that deep down, all my work is all about me. I want to say I’m out there making art because I want to make a difference but I worry about the fact that I might just be super selfish and everything I do ends up being all about myself. The reason I worry about it is because I don’t want it to be true, but when I find myself posting photographs on my website or social media and getting likes and getting new followers and I get excited by that- I worry that I’m on this self obsessed quest for self validation.