Photographer Mark Laita unveils a venomously electrifying collection of images for his latest book, Serpentine. Through Mark’s lens you are invited to see the hypnotic and unique movements of snakes from all over the world. The vibrant colours, intricate textures and sensual positions of the Serpentine prove to be truly mesmerizing as they slither from page to page.
How does it feel to have three books published?
I really enjoy having an outlet for my personal work. For years I would produce images that I loved, but almost no-one ever got the chance to see them. Now, with these books and the gallery exhibitions, I feel like my work gets a chance to be seen by a larger audience, which is much more fulfilling than having some prints sitting in a drawer.
What made you choose to feature snakes for this book?
The symbolism connected with snakes along with their beautiful shapes and patterns makes for a compelling subject. It seems everyone has a reaction to snakes, either positive or negative.
You have travelled all over the USA taking portraits of people. How does your approach differ when photographing animals?
It’s much easier. Still life simplifies the process tremendously. All I had to do was find the specimen I wanted, travel a bit and shoot. This project is mainly about colour, shape and movement. Photographing people, especially people on the street, like in Created Equal, is much more involved. There are many more parts to the process when working with people.
It must be hard to get the animals to stay in the position you want?
Not really. Snakes naturally move in beautiful ways. All I did was capture that and edit well.
It must be dangerous working with animals. I understand you got bitten by one of the snakes you photographed. What happened?
Yes, it seems that the most compelling photography often requires a bit of danger in some way. I love that part of it. I’m especially drawn to projects that have an element of danger somehow.
You have had a very successful career as a commercial photographer. How does it feel to see established brands using your work?
Advertising is a nice way to support yourself. It’s clean, the people are pleasant, there’s little corruption. Much better than the careers I hear my friends with other jobs talk about. It supports my personal projects and my decadent lifestyle, so I value it greatly.
I understand that your mother was a model and your father was involved in styling for GM. Did you grow up in a creative environment?
Yes, but I was never pushed in any way. I think my parents would have preferred it if I had become an engineer or a doctor. The great thing was that they let me do whatever I wanted. This attitude really allowed me to do what I wanted at my own pace. I’m sure I looked unmotivated for a long time. The truth was I was incubating, once I was ready nothing could stop me, but that took a while.
Do you feel that that influenced your decision to work in the creative industry?
Yes. I would have been miserable working in a career that wasn’t creative. I never thought I would get rich as a photographer. I just did it because I loved it. If I had done it for the money I probably wouldn’t have been as successful.
What do you consider the biggest achievement of your career so far?
I’m very proud of Created Equal. I think a lot of people misunderstand the diptychs, thinking I’m making some kind of heavy handed statement about good or bad, but it’s purely about my love for people and their personalities. I find people endlessly interesting and the diptychs in Created Equal are designed to highlight the differences in all of us, not to say one is good or bad.
What’s next for you?
I’m always working on something. I find that talking about my projects disperses my focus and energy, so I usually don’t talk about what I’m doing. I’d rather just shut up and do it.
For more information and to purchase Serpentine visit: http://www.marklaita.net/projects/serpentine.html
Words / Alana Maytum
Follow her on Twitter @AlanaCher