Megan Mack

When Megan first approached me about a new photo collective she was forming with Sina Basila, I was intrigued, excited and even flattered that she would ask me to join as my career in photography was just beginning. Being invited into a group of talented photographers by someone whose work I had admired was an honor and demonstrated her personality – open, friendly and always curious to learn about people and the world.  Basically, some of the most important attributes of being a great photographer.

I still recall browsing Megan’s portfolio for the first time and being completely amazed by her extensive celebrity portraiture work she modestly crafted at a young age. As a generation X-er who grew up on 90’s alternative fashion and skateboard culture, I was naturally drawn to her dreamy outdoor portraits of cool-girl Chloe Sevigny gazing into her lens. But it was the striking and moody image she created of Oscar-winning film director, Guillermo del Toro that really captivated my attention. At the time, he was up for Best Director Academy Award nominations for The Shape of Water and the portrait that Megan had created, was a brilliant concept executed beautifully with watery dimension, depth and cinematic darkness. It takes a clever mind to conceive ideas like this and bring them to life in photographs and that’s exactly why Megan’s work is exceptional. 

Give her expansive portfolio a stroll and you’ll find yourself drawn into a world of fascinating people and magical scenes captured through her powerful vision.

Intro by Lanna Apisukh

What attracted you initially to photography? 

Photography first attracted my attention during a childhood visit to the Rose Bowl Parade. I understood that the flowers on the floats wouldn’t last and I wanted to keep the image of the flowers in their full bloom. As a child, I struggled with the idea of death and impermanence and photography was a way of preserving a moment or place in time despite its inevitable erasure. I was obsessed with old photographs of my grandparents, in particular images of the farm my grandpa grew up on. The image as a lost world had a profound influence on my visual imagination, enabling me to create elaborate personal narratives that amounted to, essentially, time travel. 

Why did you choose photography over other art forms or other career paths? 

In high school I took up photography and, despite not seeing a future in it, I realized I had a gift of sorts when my photo teacher awarded me some money towards pursuing photography. Sometimes it only takes one person to push you. As your typical lost teenager, I thought photography would allow me to be a wallflower and still make money.

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

I gather inspiration from people (number one), books, nature, my fellow artists/photographers, my cat, the subway, light, loving moments, human interaction. Of course, there are moments when you feel too inundated by imagery and stimuli and so I'll try to find some alone time to reset. I think it’s needed, especially in New York.

What keeps you motivated to keep producing new work?

That’s the biggest challenge. I’m one of those people who start a lot of projects but doesn’t always finish them. But at least something is always in motion. Instagram is really helpful for connecting you to strangers, and it’s a good platform for collaboration. If I’m stuck, I’ll find someone and ask if they want to shoot together. Of course, Instagram can be extremely distracting, so it’s always a give and take with that platform.

Do you make time for personal work, and what new projects are you working on?

Currently, I’m working on my hunting series and trying to navigate my street photography. Lately, shooting with film has brought back my love for photography. My eye becomes clearer and more aware when shooting film because it makes you slow down and shoot more methodically.

What has been a big learning lesson for you in the photography industry?

You have to grab at opportunity and not let rejection get you down. In the past I gave up on new leads and regret it now. Sometimes I was indecisive, could have pushed a little harder here, stuck my foot in a door there, but I was worried it would look too bold or earnest. Being a woman definitely factors into this; while a man can knock on doors and look aggressive or confident, a woman has a fear of looking too pushy or can come across as desperate. I wish I had been braver but it's hard when you're young and told you look young for the job. So much has shifted for the better since I started my career 10 years ago.

Tell us about a project that changed the way you work in photography 

It’s not easy to select one project that changed the way I work, but I think the most challenging is my hunting project. Documenting hunters is very difficult. You need to be incredibly aware of everything at all times, while also being quiet and alert. Coming from a commercial portraiture background I wasn’t trained in journalism or documentary photography, so I wanted to explore that avenue with this project.

How is the photography community beneficial to your art?

Having a community of other photographers helps me bounce ideas around, get feedback, be inspired by the different work they are doing, and being around other photographers to discuss the industry.

Who is your ideal client? 

Someone who pays well, and can give me assignments that allow me to travel and tell stories...Nat Geo, Time, NY Times and Atlantic.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

Working as a photographer full time, completing an MFA, rebranding my business -- while still able to afford a good amount of downtime. Work steady. Show the results. Have a balanced life.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

That’s a hard one. Robots and code will probably assume the more mundane image making. There will be highly accessible and portable studios, and, hopefully, some sort of mini hovercraft to make me taller 'cause I’m always shooting up at folks and hate bringing a step stool. 

The photography industry is very wasteful (like pretty much everything else in the world), so it would be great if there is more emphasis on sustainability in terms of eco-friendly equipment and materials. And be cost efficient, of course: being a photographer is not cheap. Also, cameras will always get smaller and more powerful, considering where the iPhone and Samsung are taking us. DSLRS will be dead but not --I hope--film!

Image by Lanna Apisukh

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