Mark Sampson is a dreamer, gypsy-at-heart and a believer in the impossible. He’s got a degree or two in Life Sciences and a diploma in marketing. Add a dollop of determination and a portion of perfection to the mix and the result is an over-qualified, passionate photographer. We caught up with him to found out what makes him tick.
You are qualified in Life Sciences and have a passion for Biology. Tell me about why nature and wildlife interests you, and how that passion has shaped your career as a photographer.
Mother Nature does not have a voice and due to exploitation and habitat loss currently happening the world over, it needs one. In time, I hope my reputation will create enough awareness through the images I capture to help save and protect our precious natural resources.
If you could be any animal in the world, what would it be?
Leopard. No doubt about it. I have always loved their solitary, secretive nature, whilst all the time maintaining an elegant charismatic aura. Amazing camouflage and tree-climbing ability gives them the edge over the majority of other predators. Beautiful creatures indeed.
A close second are dolphins. I love their playful demeanor and intelligent social structures.
You are driven by a desire to be an award-winning photographer. You also know that a great photo won’t necessarily win the awards it deserves. With that in mind, how do you manage your hopes and expectations?
Long gone are the days I am convinced all my images are brilliant, although I do have my favourites. I let feedback and response direct me to an extent, but I have my own style that I won’t deviate from too much. Client feedback is always important for direction as well, and entering competitions and being a member of a number of photographic sites also helps.
I often find myself shooting nature while covering outdoor events, which clients seem to like because it advertises the beauty of the area.
Most successful creatives can point to a defining moment in their career. It could be a great idea, a piece of work that sparked a breakthrough or crossing paths with someone that changed everything. Can you highlight a moment that changed your career?
Absolutely. Six years ago I bumped into an official race photographer while working in sponsorship and operations at the Cape Epic. After chatting to him, I was convinced that is what I wanted to do. Last week, I proudly walked out the Cape Epic offices after being appointed an official photographer. If I hadn’t had that chat, I would not be where I am today.
You’re a self-proclaimed sucker for a sunrise or sunset. You’re certainly not alone in that regard. I’ve always regarded sunrise as more special – perhaps because I see them less frequently. What are your thoughts?
I’m a sunset guy myself. For some reason they seem to be more spectacular and the images I get are better. Maybe it’s because I’m more awake than for sunrises…
I also find the afterglow of a sunset very user-friendly for photography. It lasts quite a while, allowing me to get creative with silhouette and blurred shots.
You’ve previously confessed to having a dry sense of humour. Does that have any impact on your work or perspective as a creative?
I wouldn’t say my work, but possibly on my relationship with clients. Events can be very stressful for clients and sleep deprivation can also become a factor in stage events. My sense of humour often helps cheer people up, although it also gets me into trouble at times.
You’re a believer in the impossible. What do you hope to achieve by the time you’re pipe, slippers and rocking chair that you can tell your future grandchildren and instill the same belief in them?
Firstly I would tell them not to smoke a pipe, LOL.
But on a serious note, I really hope to make a difference with my work to create awareness. Nature and its resources are not finite and self-maintaining.
We need be more aware of the destruction we’re causing and it can’t carry on. Thousands of species are extinct at the hands of humans and creating awareness through education and beautiful imagery is my ultimate goal – for my own future grandchildren and everyone else’s.