Project 50

Big Mark Photography
Monday, June 14, 2021
Flashback to the first major photography project undertaken by Big Mark Photography, back in 2013.

A story that took eight years to tell.

I'm so glad that I don't delete my emails because that meant it only took a few minutes of searching to find the very first email exchange with my good friend Donna Malneek. The tone of the email is so professional. And completely different to the tone of the emails that we send each other now.

At the time Donna was running Faking Fabulous, and she was providing a make-up artist for a job I was working on with Olivia from the Closet. Donna had just started a model agency and it didn't take long before we started to collaborate on a number of creative projects.

The genesis of Project 50

Back in 2013 I started a photo project called "project 50." I think the person most responsible for getting me started on the project was this guy here.

:Big Al"

This is Al, I call him Big Al. (Nobody else does) . And Al has a big creative brain and used to tell me all the time about the sort of stories he would like to tell.

Big Mark & Co (Called Big Mark Photography at the time) was just starting to find its feet. As a photographer, I had so much to learn. (And even though I've been doing this professionally for over a decade, I STILL have so much to learn.) We decided to start a photo project that would combine Al's desire to tell stories with my desire to become a better photographer. We contacted Donna and she was on board immediately. The original idea for the project was "50 photoshoots over 50 weeks": each photoshoot would start with a concept pitched by one of the crew. I would focus on learning new lighting techniques, the amazing talent we worked with got fresh images for their portfolios, Donna and Al got to see their creative ideas turned into reality.

It all went really well up until around about Week 20, when the project started to fall apart. Al was what was known as the "thrower of hand grenades", He would throw a random idea out there that was pretty outlandish and it was our job to make it work. You can see some of those ideas when I start to post some photos from the project. But as time went on, Al got busier with work. And without someone "lobbing outrageous ideas" at us the project stymied, and then just sort of stopped.

Revisiting Project 50: the project that never really ended

Project 50 formerly ended some time in 2014. But the collaborations between myself and Donna never did. A few days ago I decided to look at the gallery to look back at some of the things we had done over the years. And there were 185 photoshoots. 185!!! We had collaborated on at least 185 photoshoots: but the real number is probably higher than that. And as I went through them the memories started to flood back. I could see me trying different lighting techniques, different styles of editing, some were successful, others (to be charitable) much less so. And each image was telling me a story: firstly the obvious story, the one we intended to tell. But it was also telling me the story of what was happening behind the scenes.

So what is Project 185? It's a look back at a project that I thought had finished in 2014 but in reality continues to this day. Over the next few months I'll be sharing images from our very first collaboration to our most recent one. I'll be posting some images that nobody has ever seen before as well as some of my favourites, in some cases I'll re-edit them, and others I'll leave in their original, garish glory. I may add some commentary on some images, on others I might just let the image stand for themselves. I'll be sharing them on my Facebook and Instagram.



The people

This amazingly talented crew from Voda Management are what made this project. Every single model bought something new to the table, were professional, friendly, and worked hard to make every shoot work. On occasion, we worked with hair and make-up artists and stylists, who would all add their unique talents to the project. We were thankful to be given access to some unique and very special locations: some of those locations no longer exist, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to shoot there before they disappeared.

And over the years I've worked with the most amazing crew. From Big Al who was there when I started it all, to Taylor who was my very first assistant, to Abbie and Masanori to Sarah and Kate and Kathryn and Jo and Dennis and many other names I've forgotten right now (but I'll stealth-edit them back into this post when I remember :) )

But there has been one constant over the project. Without Donna, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I'm not just talking about the business, or my photography. She has been with me on my best days and has been by my side during the worst. I couldn't have asked for a better friend and collaborator. And as I look back over the project I can't help but think that this isn't the end of the journey we started back in 2013, but only the beginning. I don't quite know what the future will bring. But where ever I end up, I know I'm going to be surrounded and supported by the best people.

Only forward.

Post by Big Mark

Big Mark is a website developer and photographer that lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He has owned and run his own creative agency since 2011.

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