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Selling Scenery: Mark Carter Blends Personal and Commercial Work

Selling Scenery: Mark Carter Blends Personal and Commercial Work

As often as time and money allow, Mark Carter hires a campervan and goes in search of landscapes. The South Island is his favourite place, and winter his favourite season — summer skies are too postcard-ish for his liking. “I really like to capture the grandness of a landscape and also the rugged nature of it. When I go looking for landscapes I go looking for vast areas, areas that have a bit of grit to them. I think it gives you some perspective on our place in the environment — we’re guests in this place. So I try and capture that.”

As well as building his portfolio, images that he has made on his own time have become the backbone of several campaigns after Carter showed the work to agencies. “When I shoot this personal work I often think of it with a commercial application in mind,” he says.

He’d been intending to release a series of beech-forest panoramas as personal work until a job appeared to promote the Speights Fund, which supports environmental projects in Otago. The images fit the bill exactly; retoucher Denny Monk simply searched through Carter’s shots for appropriately curved trees that could be manipulated and composited to create the silhouette of a beer bottle. Three patches of moss become the stars of the Speights brand.

© Mark Carter

On another South Island trip, Carter photographed a Coronet Peak mountain-top with the idea of superimposing someone else on the scene — a snowboarder launching from it, perhaps. When a project promoting Samsung tablets’ Wifi capabilities arrived at Republik, he convinced them to ditch the original plan of superimposing people on stock images in favour of three original landscapes — the mountain-top, plus two new locations. “The cost of retouching people into stock imagery balanced with the cost of shooting them on location, and then retouching one image,” he says.

Carter scouted spots near his home in West Auckland — a mossy riverbank surrounded by bush, an open expanse of beach at Piha — so that the shoot could be completed in a day. The extra person, to be superimposed on the mountain, was photographed at the beach. “Since I already shot that backdrop I knew the angles, I knew exactly how it was done,” says Carter. “I set up a table with fake snow and the same sun angle — it was seamless.”

The campaign ran in business print media throughout the country. “It ended up with New Zealand-specific, recognisable landscapes,” he says. “Because of that we got a way better campaign, in my opinion — it related better to the local market.”

Photographer’s website: markcarter.co.nz

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