If you are searching for iconic images of the Adirondacks, particularly panoramic views of the Saranacs, you’ll do no better than those of fine art photographer Mark Kurtz. Already successful with his magical, scenic views, Mark is deeply committed to his craft and to digging even deeper so as to create new and unique photographs. His studio gallery on Main Street, Saranac Lake, New York, has the feel of a museum, with multiple rooms in the upstairs of an 1800’s building on Hogan’s Block of Main Street, filled with original film and digital photographs, cameras, proof sheets and memorabilia.
Marks plans all his photographs. He’s not the stereotypical photographer clicking away, randomly pointing his camera. The image he wants to create dictates how he sets up the shot and the camera he uses. He has studied and owns many cameras – film and digital – and it’s clear that age and price make no difference to the value they hold for him. One of the cameras he appreciates most is the inexpensive Holga, a plastic housed film camera that produces nostalgic, vintage-touched photos.
Mark’s first experience with developing and printing photos came in the eighth grade, when he took an after-school photography class. Mark and his family at the time lived in a small rural town outside of Rochester, New York. The teacher had set up a dark room in the basement of the school. This was in the 1960’s, long before the internet and digital photographs, when you typically took your vacation or family film to the local drug store to be developed. Mark became so interested in the process that his Dad helped him build his own dark room at home. Later, when he was still a teen, he bought his first enlarger. His first cameras were a Canon FTb and a Miranda Sensorex, both 35 mm film cameras. Photography continued as an enjoyable hobby, and nothing more.
After high school Mark worked as a ski instructor, and an outdoor camp counselor. He attended community college, but still hadn’t discovered a professional passion. Later, he realized he wanted to finish college and thought back on his love of photography. He attended Alfred University in New York, and while studying photography there, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Mark credits the open layout of Alfred’s art studios, with students working in different mediums close by, to providing him with an appreciation of different art forms. He found these college years transformational, and inspired him to become a serious fine art photographer.
Mark has worked on so many interesting projects, it’s impossible to mention them all. For example, he’s photographed at Lillehammer, Norway and also Torino, Italy before the Winter Olympics; he’s photographed parks in the Southwest of the United States, and he has done extensive photography of the Massawepie Lake, just to mention a few.
One that was particularly meaningful locally, was a series of photographs he took in 1992, the 100th anniversary of the Adirondack Park, when controversy abounded surrounding the “Governor’s Commission on the Adirondack Park in the 21st Century.” Mark decided to try and capture the emotions of the time, with a photography exhibition, Adirondack Activists. He invited some 45 individuals, many with opposing positions about the Adirondack Park Agency, to be photographed and profiled, and used his new panorama camera for the portraits. The series was something unexpected, well received and was exhibited at the New York State Capitol as well as locations throughout the State. A striking and dramatic black and white photograph that stood out to me from Adirondack Activists, was that of Senator Ron Stafford, a powerful figure in the New York State Legislature during this same time.
I asked Mark, having photographed so many beautiful locations, is there a favorite? His response, “My favorite place is where I am currently with my camera,” meshes with his photographs, breathtaking even as the subject might not seem so uncommon. My guess is that Mark could make a cardboard box into a photograph of beauty.
According to artist Sandra Hildreth, President of Saranac Lake Artworks, “Mark has developed his ‘eye’ so effectively, that he makes his photography look effortless. He is a master of composition and can capture the mood of a location. beautifully, whether the Adirondacks or New York City. Besides being an exceptional artist, Mark has done a great deal to help establish Saranac Lake as an arts destination. He was one of the founding members of the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery in 1997, and Saranac Lake ArtWorks in 2008.
It’s hard to choose my own favorite of Mark’s photographs, I’ve selected some here, but you can see more at: https://www.markkurtzphotography.com/ or at his studio Mark Kurtz Photography 52 Main Street, Saranac Lake, New York.
Photos courtesy of Mark Kurtz:
1) Jevenceaux – (Holga film camera – 2005)
2) Massawepie the White Trail – (Nikon D750 digital camera – 2020)
3) Massawepie Boottree – (Nikon D750 digital camera – 2020)
4) Robert Stafford – (Fuji G617 film panorama camera 1992)
5) Taughanock Falls – (Fuji G617 film panorama camera – 1992)
Very enjoyable article.
As a (now) part time professional photographer I’ll be sure to visit Mark’s studio as I really like his very original conception.
Nice article & great pix’s