According to his Instagram bio, Mark Clennon is a “lotta things.” Photographer, entrepreneur, founder of URBN FRESH — he doesn’t fit into one label, and neither should creativity. Mark believes that, “Creativity is a trait that is uniquely human.” However, as all creatives know, there are daily challenges and societal pressures that get in the way. Mark says the two most common creativity killers are “adulting” and the fear of looking like an amateur.
Mark avoids these creativity killers by finding inspiration in travel, conversations, and interesting spaces. To get a taste for what that looks like, we talked to Mark about his two photo shoots held in two distinctly different Peerspace locations. While both photoshoots tell separate stories, his goal remains consistent: to tell the story of the black experience and portray an aura of confidence and solidarity.
Learn more about Mark’s creative process (or lack thereof) and how he made each shoot happen.
Why did you start URBN FRESH?
URBN FRESH (@urbnfresh) started out as simply a place for black professionals to get the latest information on events around New York City. Since then, it has evolved into a platform to bring creatives together.
Now, URBN FRESH lies at the intersection of music, art, fashion and black joy. The moniker URBN FRESH represents the ability to excel within different circles while maintaining your own true identity.
Can you walk me through your creative process?
I try not to lock myself into a specific creative process. I believe there are multiple ways to start a project. I just let my inspirations guide me. Sometimes, it’s a feeling I have while traveling, other times, a conversation or even a space that I discover in person or online
What was the concept for Little Girl Blue?
I worked with stylist Erica Boisaubin to come up with the concept of “Little Girl Blue.” Named after Nina Simone’s debut album, it’s a visual story of a woman in her early twenties on the verge of a breakthrough. Simone was in her mid-20s at the time, and still aspiring to be a classical concert pianist.
The setting is within a Brooklyn home as our muse, prepares for a big moment in her life. This vintage look will capture intimate moments of solitude while examining a very specific flavor of anxiety that only comes from stretching your comfort zone.
Our muse, Ashia Amave, embodied this anxiety, rooted in the confidence of a lifetime of preparation. Internally, there’s the silent ferocity needed to take a leap of faith towards what could be a definitive moment of her life. Externally, she prepares in a way that speaks specifically to the black experience.
This is the moment just before her watershed moment. Is she scared? Yes. Is she ready? Absolutely.
What was your concept for the second shoot in the Tribeca artist parlour?
Honestly, the space inspired the shoot. When I was booking the Little Girl Blue shoot, I came across the Artist Parlour shoot while shopping for locations for my Little Girl Blue shoot.
What do you care most about when looking for a location?
Personality is the most important thing to me when looking for a space.
What drew you to this Unique central Brooklyn loft for your shoot?
The Brooklyn loft was amazing because there were so many items in the space. The setup was almost comical because the items were random, but fit together so well. This offered a very unique ethos to the loft that I don’t think can be recreated. The blue wall was incredible and the lighting was great in the living room. We actually spent a large portion of the time shooting in the bathroom – even the bathroom had personality!
What about the Tribeca artist’s parlour?
The Parlour was a great space with a ton of personality in photos. I thought it would be a great intimate space that was sensual in a way that I could have a muse fully clothed and still create photos that oozed a warm, sultry feeling
What tips can you give on incorporating the location into your shoot without taking away from the subjects in the portraits?
I always focus on the muse. I really try to have the human tell the story, while the space offers additional texture to the narrative.
I start with wide shots and then work my way in. Anyone that shoots with me notices the strange way I march around when I’m looking for unique angles
How did you go about choosing the models for each shoot?
My goal is to tell the story of the black experience. I’m always looking for a variety of skintones, sizes, and vibes. I’m open to working with everyone! Right now, I’m utilizing my networks to work with as many creatives as possible.
What emotions were you trying to evoke in each shoot?
The common thread I’m aiming for in my photos is an aura of confidence and solidarity. I believe these images can be told whether the subject is smiling or not.
What are your tips on bringing your vision to life?
Don’t be opposed to collaborating and make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with people that push you and hold you accountable.
What are common hurdles that get in the way of photographers’ creativity?
I think the most common hurdle is the fear of looking like an amateur. As a millennial influenced by social media, scrolling and seeing people only post when they have something cool and interesting to share, can discourage my creative pursuits. I still battle that fear, but it’s part of the process. Your taste will always be better than your skills.
What does creativity mean to you? Where do you seek out inspiration?
Creativity is a trait that is uniquely human. It is nurtured when interacting with other humans and that’s why I think that it’s so special to always explore your creative urges.
“Adulting” can sometimes hinder creativity, but I make an effort to travel as much as possible and have new conversations to spark more creativity.
Best little-known camera app: Usually, I edit in VSCO Cam on my phone; but you’d be surprised how granular you can get with the edits in the standard iPhoto app that comes with every iPhone.
Recent favorite podcast: My favorite podcast is This American Life. I also enjoy dope podcasts like 99% Invisible, Freakonomics Radio, Rap Radar, and The Right Time with Bomani Jones
Favorite Netflix show: House of Cards is hands down my favorite show on Netflix. I can’t wait for it to return.
Influential author: Atlantic Writer and Author of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Most inspiring Instagram account: @adrienneraquel. Her feed is next level.
Life motto: Spread love and live life with intention
Mark Clennon is a NYC-based photographer that has worth with The Huffington Post, Pepsi, Travel Noire, Russell Simmons’ Rush Card, music festivals and more. Recently he’s been featured in his first print publication. He attributes his success to his relationships with friends and family who inspire and encourage him on a daily basis.