There’s no doubt about it, Mark Hylands has been on adventures that most photographers can only dream of. At the tender age of 23, the professional music photographer has travelled across the globe spending weeks on tour with the music industry’s most respected individuals.
“A lot of it has to do with luck and personality,” says Mark, “A band or musician won’t work with you unless you fit into their level or environment. You’re invading their personal space so they want someone they can tolerate.”
As well as getting up close and personal with the likes of Tenacious D and Bryan Adams, Mark specialises in live and promotional photography with musicians on all levels and genres. His work has led him to capture some of the best upcoming talent on film, which has resulted in unrivalled access to the shots that other photographers just can’t get.
“A lot of photographers out there brand themselves as ‘music’ photographers but standing in a small booth at the front of a stage capturing the same shots as ten people around you…where’s the passion in that? It‘s the personal level that I like, right down to living with them. That’s why I wanted to take my work further.”
A dedicated music lover who’s eye became as impressed as his ear, success all kicked off for Mark just a few years ago when he started to take his own digital camera to local gigs in Belfast.
“I was so impressed by the visual effects that I wasn’t just going to see the bands anymore. I would get right up the front with my digital camera and snap away.” “It started as a hobby but I began to take things further,” adds Mark, “Eventually I bought a professional SLR camera and got in touch with bands coming to Belfast. I told them I was trying to build up a portfolio and could I come to their show and it all really started from there.”
“It was mostly the smaller bands to begin with but as time went on I got more gutsy and I started to get in contact with the bigger bands, and it wasn’t long before I knew how to talk with their management to gain access. My first big gig was Albert Lee, who‘s worked with all the greats including Eric Clapton.”
Mr Hylands’ stellar portfolio now boasts shots that the most aspiring of photographers would find extremely difficult to achieve throughout their career. His impressive take on the atmosphere and raw emotion of his projects means his work is in big demand by the stars who use much of Mark’s work for their websites. His skills have also met praise from A-listers such as Jack Black .
“It was one of the most memorable moments for me. Tenacious D were playing at Dublin’s Marlay Park and I had got the chance to take some photos . Backstage I met Jack Black, we got chatting and he asked if he could see the shots. I gave him the camera and he sat down on the steps and flicked through them. All I could hear was him giggling and laughing and then he stood up and said that he had seen thousands of photos of Tenacious D but those wiped the floor with them all.”
Mark laughs: “When I started out taking pictures I used to think that anyone who had a CD out was famous. But you just realise these are just normal people, and you can talk to them like your friends.“
“People like Jack Black get enough of the whole, ‘oh my god you’re famous’ thing and they appreciate it so much more if you talk to them normally.”
Working with rock stars surely means the young professional, who has just recently completed a technology and design degree, has had a taste of the rock’n’roll lifestyle? “Well let’s just say I have the makings of a good book.” Mark laughs, “I’ve seen a lot of stupidness, put it that way. But the whole drink and drugs thing that has labelled rock stars isn’t just as bad.”
“One of my first trips away was a rock festival in Sweden with Sweet Savage and it was fantastic from the moment we got on the plane until the moment we got off. There were a few antics on that trip, from one person climbing out a window to another waking up with airport stickers all over their hotel room.”
After clocking up years of international work and remaining off the radar in Northern Ireland, Mark is set to debut a collection of his work in Belfast’s Safehouse Gallery on Friday, October 9th.
The ‘Seen A Million Faces’ exhibition will consist of a range of Mark’s work which the 23 year-old personally loves “It will be a collection of my favourite photos, photos that I have thought ‘I love it, it’s going on the wall’. I didn’t go for the major names, but the pictures I have chosen have a story behind each and every one. A third of the photos have never been seen before so those coming to the event will get an exclusive glimpse into my work.”
So what does the future hold for the up and coming photog whose portfolio reads like a photographer twice, maybe three times his age?
“If I ever get the chance to work with U2 on a personal photo shoot with them I might as well throw out my camera, that would be the height of my career. At the moment they work with a Dutch photographer called Anton Corbijn, who would be my only influence. But I want to leave that challenge for a while, I’m not quite finished with photography yet.”
‘Seen A Million Faces…’ opens on Friday October 9th 2009 at 7pm. The Exhibition runs until Friday October 24th 2009 and is in Belfast’s Safehouse Gallery, 25 Donegall Street. Get a taste of Mark’s work at www.markhylands.com