The first time Mark Hemmings ever touched a camera was in 1997 on a business trip to Japan. He’d been hired by the University of New Brunswick to recruit for their English as a second language program. He found out quickly that he was not a good recruiter. But that trip sparked his visual creativity. He had the chance to use an old, manual Nikon camera that his grandfather gave him and shot a few rolls of slide film.
The photos were stunning. His friends told him he should become a photographer, so he did and established Mark Hemmings Photography one year later. His first job was working in the movie industry as an on-set still photographer and a location photographer.
Fast forward to 2015. Mark’s love of travel and teaching, combined with his biggest passion, photography has formed the basis of his career. And when these three passions are combined, well, he’s definitely in his happy place.
Mark enjoys travel and architectural photography the most and a recent high profile project has given him an opportunity to combine these passions. In February 2014, Talons of Venice, Hemmings House Pictures and CCI Entertainment joined forces to create the W Network’s Real Houses Of, a TV series that invites you into some of the most incredible homes in North America. But the road to this place in Mark’s career is a story of struggle and emergence.
I started my conversation with Mark by asking him what had helped him become the photographer he is today.
A: Well, that’s a good question because ever since that trip to Japan it’s been a fire that burns in my soul every day. So it’s not hard for me to keep that fire going. Freeman Patterson, who is an amazing photographer, talks about how creativity in art is of the soul or spirit realm. It’s hard to explain.
Q: Who else has inspired you?
A: I have a lot of great influences around me that keep me rolling like my brother, Greg Hemmings, and all the other creative people at Hemmings House Pictures. That spark of creativity keeps us all rolling.
[Tweet “That spark of creativity keeps us all rolling at Hemmings House – Mark Hemmings”]
Q: So how do you make a living and provide for your family in the creative space that lights your soul on fire?
A: Very good question. I spent about a decade as a photographer making terrible financial decisions – a very dark period of my life.
Q: But the flame didn’t disappear?
A: No, the flame didn’t disappear for photography but I think I followed the path of many artists where at the sake of appearing one way to the public, I did not charge enough for my services. Often artists fall into that trap because they don’t want to seem capitalistic. I painfully learned that that’s not a proper attitude towards creativity and art.
[Tweet “Like some other artists, I didn’t charge enough for my services. – Mark Hemmings”]
Q: Can you tell me more about the ‘trap’ that you see artists fall into?
A: I see a lot of my friends who are creative in many endeavours with a poverty mindset, which I had as well. They just give their work away at undervalued rates. It may be about self-esteem as well. I’m not sure.
Q: What caused you to change this mindset?
A: I woke up one day realizing what I can provide for the world as a valid and even necessary product or service and it should be priced accordingly. I knew I had to change my life when it comes to money. I had to get on a budget. I had to stop buying stupid things and really invest in an intelligent way into my future – merging art creativity with a very sound financial business model.
[Tweet “I had to merge art creativity with a very sound financial business model. – Mark Hemmings”]
Q: Was it hard?
A: Getting financial stability is tough. I had to visualize what I wanted to be two or three years down the road. I already had a track record of creativity through photography. That’s never slowed down. It’s been a locomotive, in fact. But the other side, my personal life where the finances were such a struggle, I wanted to see where I could be in two years.
Q: How has your creativity been impacted by the decision to be more focused on financial stability?
A: Excellent question. When I got the finances in order, my creativity through photography and film-making just exploded to another level. I was no longer being pulled down by concerns and fears that I’m not going to provide for my family.
Q: What’s the opportunity to release creativity into the business world?
A: Every company still needs to have a solid eight hours a day of work. Hemmings House has creative Fridays where at noon they take our lunch into the viewing room and watch TV commercials or look at photography or look at short films that have inspired people over the week.
It actually fires people up to come up with ideas that can be offered to clients.
Q: Who inspires you to be both creative and business savvy?
A: The person who has taught me that it’s OK to be wealthy with the undergirding of radical giving is an American financial teacher named, Dave Ramsey. He taught me to not apologize for wealth but get excited about changing the world in a good way. I would say that he would be my greatest inspiration.
[Tweet “Dave Ramsey: it’s OK to be wealthy with the undergirding of radical giving. – Mark Hemmings”]
Q: Any advice or wisdom you’d like to share about being true to your art or creativity?
A: It’s an inward journey of finding out if your self-esteem is poor. It has great value. I think it’s wise to go back into our past to find those places where our soul has been damaged and get healing. So get whole, get healed from our past and you will see the creativity and other aspects of your life start to flourish.
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As published in the November 28, 2015 Telegraph-Journal