Mark Marroc is a Brazilian street photographer based in Washington D.C. An IT professional by day, Marroc has found his muse in his second hometown, a place he adores for its pristine historicity. We caught up with the photographer ahead of his participation in artist Chissweetart’s guest curatorial exhibition.
Can you tell me about your creative relationship with Sao Paulo versus your creative relationship with Washington, D.C.?
Let me tell you a little bit of my background. It was about in 2008 when I bought my first professional camera.
At that time, I was a bit confused about my career, and I thought maybe I’d take photography more seriously and change professions. And I will be honest, I didn’t have the courage to take the leap. I’m not sorry about that. The passion for photography, it just came back when I came to DC for my job.
It was much more of a hobby when I was in Sao Paulo. I wasn’t taking that many photos. But because my work also consumed a lot. I was working 13, 14 hours a day. So, it was pretty heavy. This is one of the reasons I decided to leave the company to come here to DC.
Here, I had the time to go back to my hobby. I had the resources to upgrade my camera. And I have the scenario to go around and get some cool captures. I try to use different techniques all the time. Try to do something different related to photography.
There’s something about your work and your love of DC that makes me think that I should have known that you were not American. Sometimes you use infrared and a fair amount of post-processing in your work. And I’m curious if you’re trying to accomplish some sort of feeling or mood besides a pretty picture and how DC as a city informs that.
With my technical background, I always was a logical, technical person. Photography allows me to push a little bit more on my creative side. But again, this technical side and trying to experiment with different things: it’s part of me.
I was just telling some friends that I struggle to find my signature in my work by myself because I’m constantly changing some techniques. Infrared was one of the techniques that I just love to start working with because cannot see the result before post-processing. It’s not something that I capture and look at the camera and see the result. You rarely can see it because the capture is all reddish. It’s all tons of red, very dark.
That pushes me to concentrate more on the scenario — what I’m capturing — so I can work on the colors, on the light. I can work on that afterward in the post-processing.
How much time would you say you spend in post-processing versus photography?
I don’t spend much time post-processing for regular photography. I try to keep my processing as minimal as possible. I use some cropping, and I use light adjustment and color adjustment.
I work at least one or two hours of infrared capture to start getting the photo prepared. Sometimes I spend a lot of time on the photo, adjusting light, adjusting color tones.
I keep experimenting and trying things. When I think I’m reaching the end of the process on a photo, I say, OK, let me turn this photo black and white and see what I can get from that. Let me invert the channels of the black and white and see how it gets inverted.
I don’t have a formal education in art I took a professional course in photography more than 10 years ago. It was hard for me to recognize myself as an artist because of imposter syndrome.
I’m curious about the responses you’ve had to your work. I’m still harping on perhaps the D.C. element, which is to say that different Americans have different baggage that they bring to the iconic look of D.C. A MAGA Republican during, say, the Obama administration versus during the Trump administration would have a different view of your photographs. And a Democratic socialist during different administrations would have a different view of your photographs. So I’m curious how you think about the baggage that other people bring to this iconic imagery, these iconic buildings, and the landscapes that you capture.
I tend to be careful coming from outside. I don’t have the baggage of the culture that somebody has if they’re born and raised here. I try to separate the political side from the historical side.
There is one capture. I was capturing the capital, and there was a left turn on the street. And I captured that. That was when the Democrats won the elections. That was the only one that I had the intention to say something political.
It’s always an opportunity to learn something about the culture, the place, and the meaning behind things. This is part of the fun of this work, researching the monuments. I don’t want to take just another picture of a monument. I try to find more purpose in them.
What’s your favorite building in D.C. to shoot?
I love the Lincoln Memorial. I love that place. The Capital is so beautiful. I love taking pictures of the Capital every time that I pass it. The Washington Monument; the area from the Washington Mall. It’s magical because it’s enormous. It’s very well-conserved. Always beautiful, always clean. But if you ask my favorite, I think the Lincoln Memorial.
Why did you start taking photographs in the first place? Why photographs?
I can stop time with photographs. Each one is unique and can create memories. Every time I press the button on my camera, it will create a different image. Even in a controlled studio environment, each photo will be different.
If I take a photo at the Lincoln Memorial every day for a year, they will all be different. This is why I find photography beautiful.
One of my favorite photographs is of the Empire State Building with a dove flying away from it. I took this picture while walking through New York with my wife. I had my camera in hand and was taking pictures of anything and everything. This picture was just a quick point-and-shoot. When I looked at it later, I saw the dove flying away. I was like, Wow, I could never capture something like that again.
That’s why I have a passion for street photography and taking spontaneous pictures.
Do many of your photographs evoke particular memories?
The Empire State Building one is very special to me. The other is this one (shows me the photo). It’s of a person walking. It was for a photography assignment. We had to represent a theme from a movie or music.
I chose the Coldplay song “The Scientist.” The music video played in reverse, and I tried to represent that in the photo. I was playing with the flash, and the camera just went off. I looked later and saw that I got this person standing with a shade of a person passing through them. I thought it perfectly represented what I wanted to show for my assignment. I have a lot of photographs that bring back good memories and make me feel proud to have taken them.
It reminds me of your Lemonade Shots. Can you tell me about your Lemonade Shots?
I’m playing around with my mistakes. It’s very cheesy, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. It’s just a second look at some of the captures that went wrong. It’s a small collection of my mistakes that I try to find beauty in.
They’re more abstract captures. Something that I messed up with the focus or the light. I look into my process and try to improve it constantly.
Recognize that we live in a culture that thinks we should be ashamed of mistakes. Mistakes are part of life. We grow with mistakes. When we start walking, we fall to the ground, and we improve on that. We shouldn’t be ashamed of that. We should be ashamed if we don’t try to be better every day.
Those kinds of mistakes help us improve. And why not try to find beauty in that?
Well, it’s interesting the other two photographs we’ve talked about the Empire State Building and then the walking man were both also happy accidents but not considered mistakes.
Yeah, that’s right. Some things in life happen for a reason. You don’t need to plan everything. Something good can come from that.
How often do you take pictures?
Less than I want. It’s been a month or so. It was a busy month. But usually every two weeks or three weeks, I’ll go around with a camera without some fixed destination. I just get the camera, the tripod and start walking and capturing. Sometimes I go for long sessions. I think that the most extended session I took was eight or nine hours of walking around. And sometimes I just sit at a monument, see the people and start getting some captures.
What advice would you give yourself as a 20-year-old about art and creativity?
Don’t limit yourself. You can do literally whatever you want. You just need to want to do it and put the effort into it. Put more time into your passion, into the things that you like to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my day job. I love what I do. But I would say: spend more time doing more fun stuff without the need to deliver something. Just have fun.