Pictured above: The original Baa Bar signage is carried down Bold Street to it’s home on Fleet Street.
In the first of a series on interviews with local photographers, we start with Mark McNulty, the Walton born photographer who for well over 30 years has been at the forefront of documenting Merseyside’s cultural events…
Liverpool Noise: What first drew you to the art of photography?
Mark McNulty: It was a hobby at first, from about the age of 14. Not sure why but I do remember watching a programme about ‘practical photography’ being on tv and I always loved those David Bailey adverts for the Olympus Trip in the late Seventies….
LN: Whose work has most influenced you, to date?
MM: Well I love all kinds of photography but documentary and street photography is very much high on the agenda, though I’m not aware how directly influenced I am by a lot of it. However, in my early days of starting up as a professional, I was really into the likes of Nick Knight, Kevin Cummins, Ray Burmiston and John Stoddart. I was obsessed with music and style magazines, so I was very much into the photographers who worked for them.
LN: How would you describe your photography style?
MM: I see myself as a documentary photographer. I like to be a fly on the wall, documenting what’s going on in whatever situation I’m in. I’m not very conceptual and even much of my more styled work (posed portraits, fashion etc) mostly has a natural styling to it. I think the truth is important and I like to have a sense of narrative to all of my work, which I guess has come from my early years as an editorial photographer.
LN: Out of all your works, which is your favourite?
MM: Impossible to answer though I’d like to say the next ones. It’s been a frustrating year and, whilst work is picking up again, I’ve got lots of personal projects I want to get on with again.
However, looking back, I think the work I did with Plastic Rhino Magazine was a highlight and a nice collection of projects. Going back further, the portraits I did with Bjork for Mixmag was the start of a very busy period and I think those images were the start of it.
Finally, I’d add the work I’ve done with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra whilst Vasily Petrenko has been with them.
LN: What type of cameras do you shoot with?
MM: For years I shot with Nikon but I’ve since gone mirrorless with Fuji and Leica, as they’re smaller and a lot easier to travel with. I can also be a little more discreet with them too as they’re much quieter than the old SLRs and that comes in handy when you’re shooting orchestras.
LN: What tools do you use for post processing, and why?
MM: I work on Apple so it’s a mix of iMac Pro, a laptop and an iPad. Software wise, I edit using Lightroom which suits me as i’ve got a massive archive that I often need to delve into, whilst working on new commissions at the same time. It’s a programme that runs well with Photoshop but it’s also a great way of cataloguing large volumes of images.
LN: To date, what has been your favourite subject to photograph?
MM: Too many to mention. I love working in America and I did a couple of projects around places like Nashville and Austin, which were a lot of fun. I also loved documenting the early rave scene. It was how I started and those photographs are now becoming part of the history of that period of youth culture which I think something to be proud of. I certainly didn’t think that my work, when I started out, would end up in museums.
LN: What is the best bit of kit you have ever bought?
MM: A Contax G2 Rangefinder. I mean, I’ve not put a roll of film through it in years but I still have to pick it up every now and then.
LN: What is the worst bit of kit?
MM: Any number of digital compact cameras I’ve bought for travelling with and then got rid of them because the quality could never be used for anything other than online. My Lomo Diana is pretty rubbish too. It’s made of plastic, leaks light onto the film and overlaps all of the photographs but I love the randomness of not knowing what’s going to come out of it.
LN: Projects for 2021?
MM: Well, I’m trying to finish the editing process on some of my archive, so that I can get that online. This has been something I’ve been doing in lockdown, alongside editing some short form projects which I’ll also be publishing on my website soon. After that I’ve got a few new things I want to work on alongside my commissioned work. I’ve started a project in Snowdonia which sits somewhere between landscape and community and there’s lots to do on that. And then, as soon as that curtain lifts on clubland again, I’m going to get stuck into the northern soul scene which is something I was trying to do last year! Onwards and always upwards!