John Mazlish is a Brooklyn based fine art photographer with extensive experience documenting everything from urban landscapes to backstage fashion, celebrities and musicians. The accomplished photographer and musician has recently focused his attention on creating a body of fine art images. An avid fan of the natural environment, he creates evocative imagery with an eye for turning the everyday into something extraordinary.
How did you get started as a photographer?
To be honest, I fell into it by accident! I was working as a musician at the time. There was an old Nikon F camera in my family sitting on the shelf collecting dust. It looked really fancy in its fine leather case, and I decided to sell it to make a few bucks. To make a long story short, I wound up trading it in for a used Nikon N50- which at the time was Nikon’s entry level 35mm film camera- and I was hooked from the first moment I took a picture. Since then I’ve encountered many angels along the way who have helped support me to develop my skills and deepen my vision.
Do you have early memories of being interested in photography?
My memories are mostly of adventuring in nature- hiking, bushwhacking and going off the beaten path. I would often find myself getting lost in the woods and stumbling upon some wild vista, and I would think, “wow, no one else in the world is seeing what I’m seeing right this moment!” I was intoxicated by a feeling of discovery; of being an explorer.
As a child I was super creative. When I got that first camera, I felt an immediate connection between music and photography. There was an indescribable yet clear sense that the creative wellspring which fueled my music dovetailed perfectly with seeing creatively and making pictures. Creative energy was now being expressed visually rather than musically, but the source of the creativity was the same.
Which aspects of photography inspire you?
I started my career shooting live music and musicians. They feel like my “people”.
I love portraiture, capturing people’s essence in simple but revealing ways. I’m sort of a mad scientist- I can’t necessarily reproduce what I create in any given moment, but I see that unpredictability as part of the magic.
In nature, I’m attracted to beauty in all forms. Color, texture, pattern, movement, light, shadow… there are so many elements that combine to create a great photo. For me, I find that the simplest work can be the most beautiful.
Currently I’m focused on shooting landscapes and abstract imagery inspired by nature. I try to avoid cliché subjects that scores of people have already photographed. For me it’s about seeing and unveiling the beauty inherent in everyday life, within each moment.
Where are some off-the-beaten-track places that you have worked to capture natural beauty?
I am from Long Island and I have an affinity for the land and the light. I find the Hamptons/Sag Harbor area particularly inspiring, as well as the north shore of Long Island. More recently I’ve spent time in California and Sedona, Arizona.
What do you hope the viewer sees or feels when they look at your photos?
My simple goal is to bring a sense of peace and beauty to people’s lives. Printed large, I hope that my work can brighten the viewer’s soul with a blast of color or a peaceful scene.
Shooting fine art is a way to create work that is both meaningful and timeless. It also gives me the opportunity to venture out into the most beautiful places at the most magical times of day, and call it work!
Do you see yourself as a champion for the environment, without necessarily being an activist?
In the sense that I am helping people to see the wonders of our world with fresh eyes, then hopefully I can inspire them to take better care of our precious environment. I don’t consider myself an activist, but by shooting ordinary, everyday scenes, perhaps I can help reveal the magic inherent in the simplest places and quietest moments.
Can you tell me more about your series of photographs depicting an almost lunar landscape of hillsides affected by wild fires?
Fires have devastated large parts of California recently. I send prayers to everyone affected, and blessings to the courageous firefighters who are risking their lives every day to save others and protect property.
The series you mention was shot in Topanga Canyon near Los Angeles. It was a surreal and barren moonscape, and walking around I felt a sense of awe. Nature’s destructive force can be relentless- yet amidst the destruction, I noticed small green plants starting to emerge from the white ash. Life was already returning- a metaphor for hope and renewal.
Smoke can create a surreal light. The photo of Santa Monica looks sepia-toned, but was caused by the smoke of fires burning in the surrounding mountains, defusing the light and creating an otherworldly effect.
What are some qualities that are most important to you as a photographer?
Sensitivity to the quality of light is one element, as is the willingness to take risks, make mistakes and maintain a child-like curiosity. There are many technical aspects that must be learned as well. My ultimate goal is to blend technical know-how with spontaneity and creativity, and create images with heart.
What’s coming up next for you?
My next step is to become more effective at marketing and build a stronger brand. One specific goal I have is to align with interior design firms, and get my photos into hotels and corporate settings. It’s not just about making money however; I’m very much a people person and value a sense of community with my clients and co-workers.
Speaking of community, I love collaborating with other artists and talent, challenging myself through creative collaboration. We can all support one another to develop our unique talents and achieve success. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.
My focus this coming year is to live a healthy life filled with good friends and love, and create work that makes me happy. I enjoy travel, but having a sense of home and feeling grounded in a place is equally important to me. It’s all about discovering the extraordinary in everyday moments. In truth, that’s where beauty lies!