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Friday, April 13, 2012

Behind the Lens: Mark Sink and Kristen Hatgi

If you’re looking in your program for a typical production photo for the operas of the Central City Opera 2012 Festival, you won’t find them this year. No, you won’t see a sketched icon either. What you will see is a window into the soul – a reflection of all that rattles the human spirit and awakens it. Central City Opera is renowned for doing things differently, and this year (ironically) is no different. As you glance at ads for the 2012 Festival or peruse the program when you head up the hill for the summer Festival, you will no doubt be lured into the photos of legendary local photographer Mark Sink.

A self-declared renegade in the photography world, Mark Sink does not tiptoe around social boundaries with his subject matter or models. Having crossed paths with the legendary Andy Warhol and many of the best-known photographers of our time, Sink unabashedly captures the world around him. Behind the lens, Mark brings raw human emotion and reaction to the audience in moments when they don’t expect it and with no apologies. An extremely modest visionary, he decided to co-found the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver over a casual discussion at the local community garden, believing that Denver indeed needed to have a forum for art that creates dialog and encourages debate.

For those of you who attended last year’s SinFest, an event during the 2011 Festival where attendees progressively experienced the seven deadly sins, you saw the exhibit of black and white photos from Mark Sink and other local photographers. Printed in large format (3x4 ft) in black and white, the images surrounded the audience on the walls in Williams’ Stables. It was difficult for onlookers not to confront the subject matter or feel the message as they were enveloped in the human response to sin.

Interestingly, this season Mark’s modern look at the world comes through the lens of both a digital camera and a camera used during the turn of the century, the setting of both Oklahoma! and The Turn of the Screw. Using a technique called collodion wetplates or tintypes, Mark and his partner Kristen Hatgi, a very talented photographer in her own right, photographed his subjects for our shoot with a wooden large format view camera with a lens from the 1860s. The initial shot was set up using a digital camera, followed by the tintype photo with the wooden camera.

Tintype photographs are made by taking a piece of aluminum and coating it with collodion, then placing the the “tin” piece in the wooden camera and creating a direct positive on a sheet of metal. Check out the collodion wetplace process here.

The image itself is actually reflected upside down on the viewer of the camera; because of the developing and the background, the dark underexposed negative appears as a positive.
To create the photos for this summer’s production, Mark was provided with ideas and sketches from our creative team Boska and brought his own vision to the table. Working with models from the art community and some hands at CCO, Mark and Kristen sought to produce images that evoked the feel of the era and an insider’s look at the life of the characters who make the storylines.

Over the period of a few weeks, we held four photo shoots with Mark and Kristen creating the perfect images for the four operas in the 2012 Festival. As a creative team, we managed to capture moments that evoke an emotional response to the productions.
As you leaf through the program this summer, notice the honesty brought to the opera images. Perhaps the element which is most attractive about Mark and Kristen’s work is that it touches upon the human spirit that is brought to life on the stage of our Festival each year. With all of the complexities involved in creating a world-class production, the goal is to connect with the audience in an extraordinary way. Mark Sink’s images provide the first gateway.

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