Your Full Name
Marcus J. Ranum (the ‘J’ is for James)
Tell us about you
I’m a computer security systems designer and an executive at a software company, and photography is one of the things I do in order to amuse myself. Computer security is a field that demands a great deal of precision, so my artistic endeavors revolve around things where I can be creatively free and maybe even sometimes a bit sloppy.
Because of why I do art, I’m able to completely liberated about my goals. I’m not trying to make money, or build my reputation, or make anyone happy except myself. That gives me the latitude to do everything from fetish art to ‘fine’ art (whatever that is!) and humor. Consequently, I suppose I’d say my portfolio is a multi-headed beast – I’ve tackled a wide range of different things and tomorrow I might change course and pursue a completely different theme for a couple of months.
In your opinion, what would be the secret ingredients to become a great photographer?
There are no secret ingredients! It’s just a matter of figuring out what you want to accomplish, and then going out and doing your research. Even specific sub-genres of art have plentiful “how to” guides that the new student can learn from. The most important thing seems to me to be to do a little thinking; ask yourself honestly “how do I learn best?” and then begin to do your research. Some people will do best taking classes, others through experimentation, and others through reading and experimenting. For example, I find I do best by going back and forth between reading books, experimenting, and then putting things in practice.
Where are you located?
I live in north central Pennsylvania, which is a fairly rural area. It’s a bit in the middle of nowhere but real estate is inexpensive and there are no traffic jams.
What would be your most rewarding experience becoming a photographer so far?
Putting a piece of sensitized paper in developer, and watching the image suddenly emerge, has always struck me as pure magic. I think my most rewarding experiences revolve around the meditative feeling of being in a quiet darkroom with the smell of the fixer and the sound of trickling water. I find peace there.
Where do you get inspirations from?
I’ve asked myself that, many times. The closest thing to an answer that I can give is that I sort of free associate ideas, constantly. When I see something, it sort of bumps up against other ideas that are already there, and I’ve trained myself to be open to letting them recombine in odd ways. I then filter the results and sometimes what comes out the other side seems to be worth actually doing.
How do you promote/ sell/ showcase your work?
I make no effort to promote it; I just put it out there and watch what happens. In fact, that is part of my process – I see what gets commented-on a lot, and ripped off a great deal, and I know that if I do more like that, it will be popular. I’m not sure I care much about being popular, though. My goals are to have fun and chasing after popularity is not fun.
Define the word “beauty”.
Beauty: a subjective term that is used by one individual to identify what they like to another.
What types of assignment/ project are you attracted the most? Why so?
I like photographs that involve pretty girls and a hint of irony.
Who is a photographer that you look up to? Why so?
I could go on all day with this one. I greatly enjoy Erwin Olaf’s work. He manages to create stunningly beautiful images that have a hint of a sort of emotional malaise (or irony) that I find very attractive. His series ‘Hope’ for example consists of people in beautifully surreal settings, not interacting with each other, just standing there with this complete emotional disconnection. It’s weird and wonderful and I get sucked into it immediately.
Describe a difficult work/ project situation and how would you overcome it?
I seldom find any of it difficult. There have been a few times where things have gotten a bit out of control, with too many moving parts, but that’s just what happens if you get too ambitious and don’t think everything through. When that happens, I just put that idea away for the day and go try something else. Tomorrow is, after all, another day. There’s no sense in forcing things.
What do you think about the Internet and how it is affecting our lifestyle?
The Internet has broken down the barrier between creative individuals and their audience. Until the Internet came along, there were gateways one had to pass through – galleries and publishers, who got to decide what was available to the public at large. So, the Internet has brought us an era of darwinian selection in the arts: the people whose work is interesting gets seen and simultaneously there have opened up niches for specific interests. That strikes me as a good thing.
If you could turn back time, how would you do things differently?
I wish I’d gotten an electric guitar when I was 5.
How does the global economic recession affecting the industry, or the least affecting your business/ work?
I’ve tried hard not to let it affect me. Since my art is not done for profit, it hasn’t affected me in terms of losing business. It’s affected some of the models I use, and I try to support them however I can.
Name 3 of your favorite (art) books/ magazines.
I’ll list 3 that are less well-known:
- ‘Chessmen’ by Irwin Olaf
- ‘Broken Spirits’ by Eberhard Grames
- ‘Reminiscences des dix ans’ by Masaaki Toyoura
What is your life motto?
What does “photography” mean to you?
I’m pretty literal about it; to me it’s pretty much any form of imaging that involves light getting recorded somehow. What is interesting about photography is that it can be used to communicate.
What do you like the sound of? Why so?
I really can’t pick one, or even a few things out as better than the others. Off the top of my head:
- the sound of eggs frying (mmm! breakfast!)
- the hammer-on/hammer-off choking sound electric guitars can make
- the sound of high-heeled shoes on a hardwood floor
- the sound of my dogs singing back to the coyotes
- the sound of soft breathing from the pillows on the other side of the bed
- the sound of wood hitting the blade of my table-saw
- the pop of the strobes
- the clack of my camera’s shutter
I could go on. Each sound brings up a host of memories and memories are all that we are.
If you have online portfolio, what is the URL?
I used to have a gallery on my personal website ( http://photography.ranum.com ) until my server got crushed thanks to my images being linked to by adult ‘image gatherer’ sites. Now, I have a wide range of stuff on Deviantart ( http://mjranum.deviantart.com ) and a stock photography gallery on Deviantart as well ( http://mjranum-stock.deviantart.com )