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Famed music photographer, Mark Maryanovich, talks about his love of photography, influence of Chris Cornell, and his favorites

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Portrait and band photographer, Mark Maryanovich, has been photographing bands, artists, and the like for several years now. The Canadian photographer has featured such rock icons as Chris Cornell, Bob Rock, Elliott Smith, for album covers, and companies like Sony, EMI and Warner Chappell Music, among others. He’s also photographed commercial work for Gibson Guitars, Peavey Electronics, and his work has been featured in such notable publications Billboard Magazine, Rolling Stone, and the book cover for Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories.

Maryanovich’s impressive roster and work is evident through his dedicated photography of bands, artists, and musicians alike. We had the distinct pleasure of talking to Mark about his interest in photography, his greatest memories from some of his work, his time photographing the late and great Chris Cornell, and of course some of his favorites and music and photography. Read on below:

What influenced you most in your pursuit of photography?

Capturing style in a portrait influences me. I’m not that interested in fashion or trends. The early day musicians (Bowie, Stones, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, etc.) created the fashion for the time, and still do today. You can buy fashion, but you can’t buy style (though, these days, you can hire a good stylist).

Your photography is highly esteemed by your peers and critics alike; what has been your most fond memories of your time in photography? 

I’ll never forget the day i got the e-mail. It was December 12th, 2012 (12/12/12), and I literally pushed my chair back and jumped up, before double checking the e-mail to make sure i read it right.

Gibson Guitars had contacted me to photograph Chris Cornell for his signature ES-335 guitar. I’m a huge fan of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Chris’s solo work, so I immediately set out on doing my research, and my admiration for Chris only amplified.

He had a four octave vocal range (rare for a male singer), pretty much invented Screamo, was heavily involved in charity work, and played for the President. Let alone the countless iconic songs he created that encapsulated the 90s and early 2000s music scene. I’d say “grunge,” though one of the treats to doing the shoot was that i was copied on the email correspondence between Gibson and the band’s management. The term “grunge” was at first going to be used in the ad copy headlines to describe the guitar made for Chris, the creator of “grunge,” only to find out that the band Soundgarden hates the term “grunge.” True irony.

The shoot date was set and the night before i would steel my nerves and get ready to meet an idol. i’d go through this at least four times, as the shoot was pushed numerous times due to scheduling.

Finally, it looked like the shoot day was set. I showed up early at the Gibson Showroom in Beverly Hills. I was told that I had 45 minutes with Chris to get two different set-ups while he did an interview. I chose my two spots and set up the lights while Chris’s manager frantically searched for a Diet Coke, (Chris’s drink of choice).

Chris showed up early and from moment one he was a force walking through the door. He was larger than life, tall, and all around just a big human being. Intense almost doesn’t seem like a strong of enough word to describe him.

After his death Bono described him as “a lion,” while Perry Farrell called him “a complex soul.” These two descriptions really captured Chris, and there was a disquiet, sad energy about him, like his mind was constantly grinding on a whole other level. Behind those clear blue eyes a storm was brewing, and caught between conversations and photos, he’d be lost in an anxious, somewhat vulnerable world of his own, that he would snap out of when asked the next question. The one time the clouds disappeared was when he mentioned his daughter was auditioning for “Annie,” and his face and eyes lit up with a proud smile.

We shared another proud moment when he happily discussed how pleased he was with the flat green color of his custom guitar, (he called it “Army Green”) and also when he talked about his love for cars with flat black paint jobs. He modestly claimed to have started the trend, taking a few spray cans of flat black paint to the first car he ever owned, a rusted old lemon for which he paid less than the couple hundred dollars he could scrape together.

When I heard the news about the tragedy, I felt sick with sadness. It was like the bottom dropped out of the world, and a black hole covered the sun. Another true artist was lost to creative desperation. I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity i had to be in the presence of greatness. RIP

What do you enjoy most about photography; portraits, live photography or both?

Portrait photography; I prefer to create a moment rather than capture one.

What advice would you tell a photographer wanting to pursue a career in music photography? 

Take a business course first, before pursuing any career in photography. It’s all business.

Is there anyone you haven’t shot on your bucket list, that you’d love to shoot?

Ever since I started as a portrait photographer, it’s always been David Bowie. Not only for his music, but also for his effect on pop culture. I was very saddened by his passing, and now it’s a moment I’ll never get to experience, and an image I’ll never get to create and a memory I’ll never get to cherish.

There’s still a lot on the bucket list… it’s a pretty big list.

Fun Questions

Who was your first concert, and who has been your favorite, thus far?

First: Downchild Blues Band. My parents took me, I was super young. There was too much drinking, swearing and smoking, and that was just from the band, for starters, so guess who got to beat the traffic home?

AND FAVORITE: The Tragically Hip at the Whisky a Go Go in LA. I was 18 with my two older brothers. It was us, three dudes that looked like they didn’t have quite enough hairspray to cut it in the band Poison, and ten rodeo girls all with cowboy hats and everything. By the end of the set, all the cowgirls were on stage partying with the band. It was a phenomenal night at a historic venue in the city of angels!    

What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?

The first LP I actually bought myself, believe it or not, was the pop sensation Shaun Cassidy’s self titled album in 1977, with the #1 U.S. single “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” on it. After listening to it once, I was super jazzed, and proudly wanted to share it with my friend. So I tucked it under my arm and walked over to his house. En route, the album slid out the a** end of the jacket, rolled down the street, cracked and was scratched to s***. But this did not crush my love for the vinyl recording.

Which five artists and/or albums would you not want to live without?

David Bowie
Leonard Cohen
Tom Petty
Lemmy Kilmister
Chris Cornell
and, of course, Gord Downie

Who would wanna? Right?…

Who are your top three influential photographers?

Raphael Mazzucco
Annie Leibovitz
Anton Corbijn

Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure? 

Smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee while listening to Shaun Cassidy.

(just kidding, about the Shaun Cassidy part, kinda) (smiles)

Connect with Mark and his work on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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