The Award Winning Modern Day Master | An Interview with Photographer Mark Maryanovich

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The Sound 228 Magazine written by Pepper Gomez

Mark Maryanovich is an esteemed and top photographer who has captured some of the biggest artists in music including rock legends Chris Cornell and Dream Theater. I was so happy to interview him for The Sound 228 Magazine.

1.  When you were a boy, were you always attracted to working with a camera? Do you remember your first camera? 

i actually wasn't interested in photography at all when i was young. it was in my early 20’s when i started taking pictures, and the first camera that i owned was a Mamiya 645 medium format film camera. the first portrait i ever took ended up being printed as a full page in a magazine. seeing that, i was completely hooked and knew that’s what i wanted to do for the rest of my life.

2.  What draws you to photographing bands? 

i’ve always been a huge fan of music and going to live shows. the relationship between the music and an artist’s visual style, how they would express themselves visibly, always fascinated me. from artists like the Rolling Stones to Prince, to Nirvana, each artist had their own unique look to accompany their music. David Bowie was the true master at using his style to translate his music into the visual realm. you can buy fashion, you can’t buy style :)

How did you get into this area of photography? 

becoming a photographer in the music business came quite randomly, my brother was managing a rock band in the early 90’s. i happened to be there at the photoshoot and met the photographer who was hired to take the new band images. watching the photographer work, the way he would set up the shot and how he managed to relate to each member of the band was cool. the photographer and i hit it off right away, and we had some drinks after the shoot, and he asked me if i'd like to assist him on his next gig. i studied with him for a year or so, then started taking my own images. i’m not sure if i would have ever picked up a camera if i hadn’t been there on that shoot.

3.  What elements comprise a good shoot to you?

i’ve found over the years that there are a number of different elements that can make for a good shoot, one being location. if you bring your client to an interesting place somewhere, interior or exterior, people seem to be more at ease than being in a photo studio. i think this helps them relax a bit, and enjoy the process of getting their picture taken.

4.   Tell us about one of your favorite shoots and why? 

one of my all time favorite photo shoots was with legendary Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer Matt Sorum for the cover of his autobiography “Double Talkin’ Jive: True Rock ‘n’ Roll Stories from the Drummer of Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, and Velvet Revolver”

i had the pleasure of working with Matt for a magazine a few years earlier when he had a new solo album out. i went to his home and studio in Beverly Hills to photograph him, and he was so extraordinarily cool, gracious and humble as he talked about his career and all the charities he’s involved with, which is incredible. he’s a Board Member of Dolphin Project (, US Ambassador for Animals Asia (, and he spoke about Adopt The Arts (, a foundation he started that’s dedicated to saving the Arts in public schools. 

i was honored when he thought of me to photograph him for his book cover, knowing how many iconic photographers he’s worked with over the years. Matt had just moved to Palm Springs and asked if i would do the shoot at his friend's studio in Joshua Tree, and my answer was, ABSOLUTELY! 

i drove from LA and picked up Matt at his place, which is so remarkably beautiful, it was featured in Architectural Digest. no kidding, check it out:

he had all the clothes ready to go and everything looked fabulous, as Matt has amazing personal style, and then we headed to Joshua Tree. the studio location was fantastic, lots of different areas to shoot on the property that sat on a hillside in the desert. the studio caretaker met us and gave us the rundown of the place, including a warning to check for rattlesnakes, scorpions and other such creatures IN and around the two Airstream trailers about a hundred yards from the studio, where we would be lodging for the night.

the plan was to shoot late afternoon until sunset, and then get up early and do more shots at sunrise. we decided to setup where we thought would make a cool cover image, a lone doorway standing by itself in the middle of the vista, opening to the edge of cliff. (we happened to have thought right, that was the shot used for the book cover). 

after a few hours of shooting and the light was gone, we sat outside the studio and had some dinner that Matt had thoughtful brought for us. he shared some unbelievable stories from his days with the Cult, then his segway into Guns ‘N Roses, and how it evolved into Velvet Revolver. listening to him was like having my own Behind The Music episode just for me, crazy, right? 

it was getting late and we wanted to be up for dawn so we called it a night, but we both didn't notice until then how dark it really is in the desert at night, not dark, but black, pitch black. we grabbed the flash lights given to us by the caretaker and headed towards the trailers, and to say the least, we were both a little freaked, remembering the words of warning about the critters that were echoing in the night. needless to say, the idea of getting up at sunrise now seemed pretty appealing, even though getting a good night’s sleep til then wasn’t very likely. 

daybreak came quick, thankfully, and Matt got ready while i set up to capture more images for book cover options, then we headed back to civilization. it was an epic couple of days in the desert and most definitely an experience i’ll never forget.

Matt recently opened GoodNoise Studio in Palm Springs and had me by to check it out, a cutting edge, top-notch place, classy and ever so cool, just like him. i feel really fortunate to have met Matt, as an artist and a human, he’s truly extraordinary.

5.  Tell us about your book written with Natasha - why did you write it, what has been the response?

my manager Natasha and i recently published a book called Photography Business Basics: 10 Years of Photography Business Knowledge inn 10 Short Chapters. a photography business encompasses so many moving parts, and the book is a quick reference guide to help photographers succeed, with the foundational knowledge needed to enhance a photography business in any market. 

Natasha and i wanted to share the knowledge we acquired over a decade spent scouring the internet and absorbing literally thousands of blog posts, webinars and courses on business, so we distilled that information to the essential techniques necessary for other photographers to help them succeed. 

the response from those who have read it has been pretty marvelous. it’s been included in three libraries, two in California and one in New York, and a couple of Universities with Photography Programs have included it in their syllabuses. 

we’d both be thrilled if it can help many other photographers avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve had in our own business, and bring success quicker to as many artists as possible.

you can learn more about it here:

6.  If you could paint your future, what would it look like?

i’ve always tried to live in the moment, enjoy the here and now. ya know, each day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present :) ‘don’t think, just do, don’t act, just react mentality’ is kind of my motto, because one thing i’ve truly enjoyed about being a photographer is that you never know what’s next. the sense of mystery in the future, who you’ll meet, the photos you’ll take, it keeps things very interesting. i’m extremely grateful for the people i’ve met and that have inspired me with my work. 

so at the same time, i’m always looking forward to what’s around the corner. and as they say, having any plan is better than having no plan at all. so i guess i plan to photograph my future, not paint it ;)

7.  What’s the best advice you would give to bands and artists with regards to their photos? 

. when prepping for an upcoming shoot, sometimes a good place to start is by looking at other photos and album covers to see what you like. having verbal discussions with band members, your team and the photographer to make sure everyone’s on the same page and after the same outcome is key. having a cohesive style and image that all involved are happy with presenting is important

. when photographing bands, it’s nice when things coordinate in terms of color and style, so lots of different colors can also work great, as long as they don’t clash and bring lots of options for clothing and accessories (shoes, jewelry, scarves, jackets etc). more options are always better than less, also, bring stuff you’re comfortable wearing, and what you wear on stage. the photos want to accurately represent who your fans will be seeing when they come to your shows, bring your instrument if you play one and it’s possible, along with a cool case (worn, weathered, with stickers, etc.), things that look cool and visually relate to your image

. try to avoid getting a haircut or doing anything that radically changes your appearance just before the shoot in case you’re not happy with it

. after the shoot, make sure you hold back a few of your favorite photos for exclusive use for magazines and press. journalists and publications are much more attracted to stories they can run with photos that no one has ever seen before

. being on time really helps the photographer do the best job possible: having all band members present and ready when the light is perfect is a great way to start the shoot

8. What elements make a great band photo/image?

an element of the unexpected can really make for a stellar band image, whether it’s an expression, interaction captured, or incorporating something unusual and unplanned for happening at the location. coming to the shoot with good energy and an open mind can also make for incredible photos, because you never know what’s going to work and what can create an image that will stand out from the masses and become unforgettable.

i actually compiled a list of tips for professional images that i compiled after reviewing student portfolios for The Photography Institute, and the VanArts Media Arts School for Photography. they can be found here, and i hope they help: 😎

Throughout his career, Maryanovich has demonstrated that he truly connects with people which translates into the excellence of his photographic art. His images command attention and frame the band in the art that is Mark's and Mark's alone.

Mark Maryanovich's music photography captures history. Through this captivating visual art, Mark's passion, creativity, and dedication have inspired lovers of photography and pjotographers alike. Mark's work sets the example of excellence in the arts and will always find a home in the hearts of fans and artists.

*** Mark Maryanovich Photography is the official photographer for ET Boys and Wake Up! Music

Pepper Gomez

Hostess - The Sound 228's Wake Up! Music Rocks Nu Music Hour - every Thursday 8 PM central

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