How the enigmatic British radio broadcast inspired a series devoted to landscapes of the imagination and romantic notions of Britain's island status
"Now that everyone in the developed world seems to own some form of camera, a different space has opened for documentary photographers. It's a space free from specific events, where there are different expectations, where it is first and foremost about ideas. Now we can all take pictures, with varying degrees of ability, it's what we do with our cameras that counts"
- Mark Power
As a child, Mark Power discovered his father’s home-made enlarger in the family attic, a contraption consisting of an upturned flowerpot, a domestic light bulb and a simple camera lens. His interest in photography probably began at this moment, though he later went to art college to study life-drawing and painting instead.
After graduating, he travelled for two years around South-East Asia and Australia. To support himself Power tried a number jobs (he was an English teacher, a television actor and a fish farm attendant in Hong Kong; he painted cinema murals in Bangkok; produced large numbers of identical paintings for others to sell as their own in the Australian outback (very questionable, this one!) and ended up running the camera department of a large chemist in Bankstown, in the Western Suburbs of Sydney). While travelling Power began to realise he enjoyed using a camera more than a pencil and decided to ‘become a photographer’ on his return to England, two years later, in 1983.
He then worked in the editorial and charity markets for nearly ten years, before he began teaching in 1992. This coincided with a shift towards long-term, self initiated projects which now sit comfortably alongside a number of large-scale commissions in the industrial sector. For many years his work has been seen in numerous galleries and museums across the world, and is in several important collections, both public and private, including the Arts Council of England, the British Council, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, and Marrakech Museum of Photography and Visual Art.
To date Power has published eight books: The Shipping Forecast (1996), a poetic response to the esoteric language of daily maritime weather reports; Superstructure (2000), a documentation of the construction of London’s Millennium Dome; The Treasury Project (2002), about the restoration of a nineteenth-century historical monument: 26 Different Endings (2007), which depicts those landscapes unlucky enough to fall just off the edge of the London A-Z, a map which could be said to define the boundaries of the British capital; The Sound of Two Songs (2010), the culmination of his five year project set in contemporary Poland following her accession to the European Union; Mass (2013), an investigation into the power and wealth of the Polish Catholic church; Die Mauer ist Weg! (2014), about chance and choice when confronted, accidentally, with a major news event – in this case the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment (2016), a collaboration with the poet Daniel Cockrill about pre-Brexit England.
In 2007 he tried his hand at curating. Theatres of War featured the work of five artists whose work is concerned with contemporary conflict and surveillance. It opened, appropriately, at Oskar Schindler’s former enamel factory as the keynote exhibition of Krakow Photomonth, Poland.
Mark Power joined Magnum Photos as a Nominee in 2002, and became a full Member in 2007. Meanwhile, in his other life, he is visiting Professor of Photography at the University of Brighton, a city on England’s south coast where he lives with his partner Jo, their children Chilli (b.1998) and Milligan (b.2002) and their dog Kodak.