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Mark Power is a celebrated British documentary photographer known for his captivating and thought-provoking work. In 2023, we invited Mark to capture Crystal Symphony during the final stages of her return to sail drydock at the shipyard in Trieste, Italy.

Written by

Authoress Zoe Hearne

Zoe Hearne

Published on 08/28/2023

With his keen eye for detail and composition, Mark Power's work transcends the boundaries of traditional photography, revealing the human experience and the world around us. His images often reveal unique perspectives on everyday life, showcasing his ability to find beauty and meaning in the ordinary, and his portfolio encompasses a wide range of subjects, each telling a compelling narrative through his distinct visual language. As a result, Mark's short film, Metamorphosis, showcases Crystal Symphony in a stunning new way.

“It’s an old adage, but there is beauty to be found everywhere. You only have to look. During the past 25 years, I've done a lot of work in construction sites (including shipyards), and I love the contrast between enormous industrial spaces and intimate, tiny corners. Between big objects and small ones.

“I also enjoy the accidental sculptures that are created by the workers, made without any artistic intent but which are often astonishingly beautiful. A good example of this would be the blue canvas that I found tossed over the ship's propeller, which couldn't have been done more aesthetically if they'd tried, and the point was they hadn't tried at all – it was only there to perform a function. Likewise, with complicated wiring made by electricians, which is something I'm always drawn to.

“Over time – and I've been a photographer now for more than 40 years – I've learnt to be able to see any three- or four-dimensional space in two dimensions, just like a picture. In other words, I can imagine exactly what something will look like when photographed. So that's the next stage. You find something interesting, but then you have to make a ‘good' picture of it. In industrial spaces, objects hang around for a while, giving me enough time to make the picture I want.

“I tend to photograph from a certain distance to emphasize the idea of being from somewhere else and not quite belonging (my 12-year project in the US, for instance, uses this method a lot). I'm trying, as best as I can, to show the viewer what something looks like, albeit in an interesting way.

“I’m interested in making individual pictures that contain many layers of detail and information to suggest a number of issues. Generally, I try to get everything in my pictures in focus, so they are more (dare I say) ‘democratic’. I try to imagine myself as an alien, looking at the pictures for the first time and finding interest in everything equally. In other words, everything within the image is of equal importance, and I'm not telling the viewer exactly what to look at, apart from, of course, the fact that I have chosen to frame the image in a certain way and include certain things (and not others). This is greatly considered, believe me.

“My industrial work is only one aspect of what I do. At the moment, it's not as dominant as it used to be, and I'm interested in making work more generally about the world around us. That said, I'm currently putting together a book that uses pictures from the many, many different industrial/manufacturing sites I've had the pleasure to photograph over the years. I've mixed them up, and there are no captions, so we’re never sure where we are or what we’re looking at. The pictures are then sequenced very carefully. I'm trying to make the point that it's possible to make powerful, beautiful, eloquent, and deeply personal work within the corporate sector.

“Importantly, it's not a book to put out there to search for more work, but instead, I want it to be a celebration of the possibilities to make good work when trust exists between the company and myself. Crystal Cruises gave me complete freedom to photograph whatever I wanted onboard. I was never told what to do and I was very grateful for that. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

“I had two days with the ship, but it was simply not enough time; there was so much I wasn't able to see or photograph because the time went so fast. Luckily, on the first day, I was taken around by someone who knew it intimately, so I saw most of the main spaces. I was able to revisit most of these over the two days, but it was a little frustrating, there were definitely things I missed. At the end of the day, I was trying to make photographs that worked, and, of course, it's never possible to photograph everything. Also, some spaces were more giving than others. Just because something looks spectacular or has nice colors, it doesn't necessarily mean it will give me a picture that I like.

“Where possible in Trieste, I used people to give a sense of scale because the ships are so vast. Sometimes, often, a photograph struggles to convey scale accurately. In these cases, I'm not necessarily trying to describe what the people are doing, instead, they are only there to perform a function. But, then again, most of the rooms on the ship were empty of people, so this wasn't always possible. In that case, I might play with the idea of scale to suggest that something is bigger or smaller than it appears to be. Photography is very good at that.

“I used a large-format film camera (5in x 4in negatives) for more than 20 years but made the switch to digital in 2013. I managed to find a digital version of my technical camera with the same movements I was used to. It meant I was able to make the same kind of pictures digitally as I used to make on film. This was important to me because I had developed a way of looking and of making pictures that I didn't want to lose. All photographers are in search of their individual voice, by which I mean that (if you find it) others recognize your pictures immediately. I like to think that after all these years, I have managed to find my own voice.”