Interview with Mark Elzey


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? 

I’ve always been an artist. My grandmother was a painter, essentially that’s how I started. I was born in Bogalusa Louisiana, had little to nothing. But Art was my sanctuary, it was how I was able to cope with my environment living in a city where the crime was daily. I moved up north to Massachusetts to live with my father and also to get away from the uncertainties of life past the age of 15. I learned the digital side of everything. I went from being a painter to graphic design. But then one day my brother asked me to join him in going to his friend’s birthday party. I was so introverted that being there I felt out of place and lost. I didn’t know how to speak to anyone. So I sat in the backyard for a couple hours a little bored. I saw a camera on the table and thought maybe if I play around with this camera it will help the time go by. The moment I picked up the camera, I felt something truly magical happen to me. Everything in my life finally made sense, it was so magical I could never forget it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this? 

The moment I had to overcome my shyness. I went to school in San Francisco, Academy of Art University. There was one assignment during my first semester that broke me in to be able to fearlessly talk to anyone. This assignment was called “25 strangers” To some of my classmates at the time, this wasn’t so hard as they already had people in their portfolios. But, I only had landscapes, flowers, buildings, etc. I went out into Berkeley California with a white bed sheet and tape. I had to tape the sheet to a wall in Berkeley and ask strangers if they would be okay with me taking their picture. I had two weeks to do the assignment. I struggled, it took me a full week and two days before the assignment was due to actually complete it. The first couple of days were rough as I kept getting no as an answer. So I went back to my dorm to reflect as it was stressful for me at the time. This was all new, but I also knew I had to do this if I ever wanted to be the person I envisioned myself being. So two days before it was due, I changed my method of asking people and it was a breeze, ended up getting 30 people. Then on the day of the assignment, I realized half the class was missing. That was a big turning point for me, as I saw such a big fear of mine was also the fear of others. And the opportunity to turn this fear into a strength.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? 

For me reflecting often, and being honest with yourself. Shoot with purpose, don’t pick up your camera unless you have something to say, or you have an idea that doesn’t allow you to sleep. Otherwise, you burn out if you try to shoot often and work with everyone, you realize the work looks unauthentic, and more or less just content that you’re not proud of later on.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story? 

Jeff Turner. I always call him my brother but, he’s a wedding photographer in Boston Massachusetts. He believed in me even more so than my own father when it came to the beginning stages of my photography. As my dad wanted me to continue a safe route of graphic design. But Jeff took me under his wing. Allowed me to assist him at his weddings, but it was more than an internship as he was constantly giving me feedback during wedding days. That feedback took me further than anything. Seeing how he runs his business, how he carries himself, how he values his family. It was truly what I needed to see and be around. I’m always thankful to him, I try not to overload him, so I’ll have random reflects and tell him ever so often throughout the year.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? 

Showing everyone that their dreams are possible. They see my story and the environment I lived in. I’m truly one in a million, but there can surely be many more. It just takes a flip of the switch and deciding that you want to chase your dreams and not allowing any outside voices to throw you off that path.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life? 

Go at your own pace, it’s not a race, no need to crash. All that matters is that your heart is in the right place.

How can our readers follow you on social media? 

Instagram is @markelzey, and my twitter is also @markelzey.

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