We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Lipczynski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Self-sufficiency was my main driver. I had been employed and laid off several times in the dying print industry of newspapers and print magazines, so I had to make a pivot in 2008 at the peak of the great recession while I was going through foreclosure on my first home. I decided to take a risk, abandon the illusion of secure employment and trusted myself to make it work starting at the very bottom.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is photography and is largely informed by my youth, growing up watching and photographing trains with my dad and brother in the industrial northeastern Ohio rust belt. I’ve been chipping away at the social and mental implications of deindustrialization every year I go back to visit Ohio, and how deindustrialization influenced my move west to Arizona, echoing the American tradition of westward expansion, in search of something better. Most recently I’ve been building a body of work that references the proliferation of the railroad in America to forge the nation we know today through the process of eliminating space and time (also a big part of westward expansion). I try to honor the passage of time, from my bleak outlook in a dying industrial town, to a career in photography and a world of possibilities, by doing work that is deeply personal to me. As a kid I never realized having a career in photography was even a possibility. So getting to where I am today, doing work that I can’t imagine my life without, is something that I’m abundantly proud of. Of course I wouldn’t be here at all without my dad’s influence as an amateur photographer, but having a camera only goes so far. Taking photography from a hobby to a career was something I had no knowledge of. But I pursued it any way I could find. When I started college, I realized I could do newspaper photography as a career, just as print media was on the decline (another echo, from a dying steel town, to a dying industry of print media). The first few years were rough because I kept getting hired by newspapers and then getting laid off. After my third newspaper lay off I decided to work for myself. The challenges of finding my way as a business owner were numerous, but there were colleagues, organizations and the internet (the very thing killing print media) to provide a wealth of information and guidance. I was motivated to prevail because I put everything on the line, drawing inspiration from the spirit of my grandparents who survived the great depression to help me get through tough times by being resourceful. We all stand on the shoulders of those who come before us, so it is important to acknowledge how that influences who we are. During the peak of the Great Recession in 2008, and even now during the current pandemic, my grandparents’ spirit continues to show me that I can do a lot with very little too. I think for as much as people are similar in their behavioral patterns, what differentiates us are just subtle nuances. We are each unique by virtue of our individual experiences yet connected by natural human behavioral patterns. There is an audience for every type of work out there because there is a shared experience in human behavior differentiated only by minutia. If you have an idea, pursue it with your most authentic perspective and see where it takes you.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I guess if there wasn’t a pandemic to be concerned about I might take them to visit some of my favorite specialty coffee shops, walk around downtown Gilbert, Arizona at dusk to see the neon signs for restaurants and bars, grab a burrito or soft-serve ice cream at Topo (a walk-up grab and go concept by local restauranteur Joe Johnston), and maybe get a craft beer somewhere in the vicinity afterwards. The skies around the Superstition Mountains are great for star gazing and astro photography and there are really breathtaking desert views just a short drive from Phoenix in all directions. The topography of Arizona is something really special that always leaves an impact on people from out-of-state.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I love this question because we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so it is important to acknowledge where we all come from and how that influences who we are. I’m from northeastern Ohio, a.k.a. the Rust Belt. A very “main street America” kind of blue collar town, with a lot of pride and a strong work ethic. My Polish immigrant grandparents survived the Great Depression there, with little to nothing compared to what I/we have today. During the Great Recession of the early 2000s, and even now during the current pandemic, my grandparents (in spirit) continue to show me that I can do a lot with very little too. As I think about it now that may very well be why I work for myself, in part, because of the self-sufficiency with which my grandparents entrusted their lives to. So I hope I am honoring their legacy.
Other: I’m transitioning my personal work to reflect the things I talk about in my answers to the interview questions. Trains are going to play a larger role in my photography, so it may be confusing to some viewers the way things look now. My strictly commercial photography website is: https://www.marklipczynski.com/ I also built a website that is strictly railroad photography at: https://www.analogfoamer.com/ I use the social media handle “Mark Traain” as an alter ego that references my youth photographing trains and keeping it secret from my school friends and public persona, out of embarrassment. But I’ve shed that shame and am embracing my past which is changing the way my social accounts look and how I present my personal work at https://www.marklipphoto.com/ posted in the website field above.