Interview #12
Darren Mahuron
by Daryle Dickens

Darren Mahuron shoots people for a living. A Canon 5D is his weapon of choice. Through his photography business Summit Studios he creates extraordinary images of everyday people. That ability grows from his love of people and the town they live in.

I've been checking out your work via the internet for a little bit now and I must say I've noticed it really evolving over time.

Darren Mahuron: We have actually had a huge change in the quality and style of our work from around December 2005 up until now. Specifically due to the fact that I was concentrating on portraiture for the 2 or 3 years in advance of that. And kind of what I was doing was portraiture that was specifically based on what my image of what portraiture should be, not what I wanted to do. It was more of what I'd seen other photographers do and kind of learning my way through it. I ended up not having my own style. Which for anybody it takes time to find and develop and I am still developing mine and hopefully always will be. Things are continuing to improve. The big change happened for me around December. I started working with a model that kind of broke me out of my box mentality of what I had been doing. Which was in art. As a kid I was always drawing and painting and building things. And that sort of art background had gotten lost along the way after years of product photography. Doing things that are the same all the time. I was able to put more creative juices into what I was doing and make projects more fun for myself and keep me inspired. And then secondly, and really important, it allowed me to go after a certain clientele that was a younger market that would bring something to the table for me as well. Because half of the photograph is the person I am shooting. Because I do strictly shoot people. So once I was able to start working with this great group of people we have in Fort Collins I was really able to expand upon what I was doing. Because they were bringing a certain look to the table or a certain attitude. So now it has moved into a better and better place as I develop my style and collaborate with people that inspire me as well. 

ZAF: Has photography been your only career?

DM: No, not at all. Been a jack of all trades looking for my eventual calling. I grew up watching people around me in the same job for years, working 9 to 5 everyday. Miserable. Dreading going to work on Sunday, every Sunday. But will not leave because of the security of the job. I've always been kind of the opposite. I have to find what is going to make me want to come to work everyday. I've been a musician, a carpenter, I worked at Disney World while I was in school, I went to film school for a time because I had gotten into video and digital video. Television production, philosophy, psychology I minored in, so I've been all over the place. As well as retail and sales. So I kind of ran the gambit and finally after years of doing photography as a hobby and realizing that film was not right for me, it is such a group effort and I am more of an individual kind of control freak and working in a group endeavor does not sit so well for me. I started narrowing it down that photography is where I wanted to be and then figuring out how to do that. Starting off with product photography. Shooting pro audio equipment, cd players and lighting equipment, I did that for a couple years. That got me self trained in Photoshop a little further, trained in using lighting equipment. 

ZAF: So has your photography been all self taught?

Yes. I never have taken a class in photography. In college I changed my major like 7 times and photography was never one of them. I always felt like it was a hobby, not something I could base a career off of. 

ZAF: Where did you grow up?

DM: I am from Indiana originally. I was there until I was ten then I moved to Northern Florida. Pensacola was the city we lived in. And then moved we moved here in January of 2005. We had lived in Colorado Springs for 4 years from 97 to 2001 and liked it a lot but did not really feel at home there so much. Had heard so many great things about this town which they all turned out to be true. We absolutely love it here. And this is a great place for an artist to come and find inspiration as well as if you have a family, which we have 2 daughters, great place to raise a family. 

ZAF: You stated earlier that you just shoot people.

DM: I tried to go off into the landscape thing for a while because I love landscape photography and being in the outdoors. I am a huge fan of Ansel Adams. There are just so many people that are better at landscape photography than me that it is just a waste of time for me to do it. I could probably spend my whole life at it and probably have a mediocre success eventually, maybe. Even back when I was just doing photography as a hobby that was the stuff people would always be into. The stuff I always got positive feedback on was my ability to interact with people and pull something out of them. And I attribute that so much more to the person I am working with than I do myself. I have been very fortunate to work with wonderful people. 

ZAF: Was it a challenge for you to make the transition from taking photos of CD players to taking pictures of people?

DM: No, not at all. It was extremely exciting to be honest with you. Other than a few situations where I had to shoot a dog that almost knocked my lights over, or a kid that is tearing the backgrounds down. Going through that phase of portraiture when your not doing the most fun work it is a little bit of a challenge. But honestly working with adults I love, I just love the interaction. And if I do hit it off with someone it does come out in the photos even more. Which you will never get that with a CD player. Because with people I can come into a shoot with a whole list of ideas and then after talking to them or as I am shooting them come up with a whole slew more of ideas. I get this whole exchange that I can't get with any other type of photography in my opinion. 

ZAF: Do you have a "bread and butter" money making side and an artistic side?

DM: Yes, that is a good way to put it. I have a local portraiture and small business side of this business which is consistent cash flow. Then I have national business which would be fashion and mainly shooting clothing for companies to use in a catalog or their website. I specialize in what is called lifestyle photography, which is very similar to the stuff you see on my website. Which is someone wearing a pair of jeans in front of a brick wall, that is lifestyle photography. Its not product photography because you cannot see the product very well, but it is selling the image to a target audience. I have 2 or 3 decent size accounts a month in that. But I can't totally count on that. It is something I am still building my business into. We are fortunate enough to have a fantastic local base here where people always interested in our work. We have been very fortunate in that way so that keeps everything flowing and keeps the rent paid here.

ZAF: Do you have any photographers you admire or look up to?

DM: This a source of contention with many of my artist friends. I nearly refuse to look at other photographers because I do not want to be overly influenced by their work. Many of my friends who are in photography or design think I am nuts for doing this. We have had many debates over this. Because most artists look at other painters, photographers cut out pictures from magazines to get ideas from. For me that is a dangerous path to walk. Because it is too easy for me to end up mimicking someone else's style. But one photographer I do follow non stop because I am addicted to his work that I can't keep myself away from it, and that's Robert ParkeHarrison. He is a phenomenal photographer. He and his wife work together combining paintings and sets and props. But I try to draw most of my inspiration from music. I never work on a photograph without music playing in the background. Many of my ideas that end up being a photo come from music.  

ZAF: What music do you listen to most?

DM: Queens of the Stone Age, Built to Spill, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Jane's Addiction, Mars Volta, TV on the Radio, Matson Jones, Monofog, I would say Spoon. There are just certain bands, just like for anybody, that can take you somewhere else. I am actually a very obsessive person. I will get an album and I will listen to that album a 100 or 200 times if I really love that album. I won't listen to anything else for days.

ZAF: Anything else you would like to share with the good people?

DM: We have a book coming out. It is 20 front and back pages, full color. We designed the book to go after some agencies we are sending this off to. We've also had a lot of local interest so we are looking at selling it locally and selling it online as well. Also one thing we are hearing is that people are concerned that we may be way out of their price range, we get that a lot. I want to make the point that we are accessible to anybody. We do all kinds of work. And I think if I could get one thing out it would be don't hesitate to call me if you want to collaborate on a project or you don't want to do a typical package or a typical senior portrait, if you want to do anything that is not the typical thing, call us. Even though we do big jobs we do small jobs too, we want to work with this community, with the color of this town. There is a lot of personality here and we want to capture that. I also want to add that we do shoot weddings as well. We work with people who want to have our style kind of put on their wedding, more painted artistic style. And we haven't posted those pictures but we have done several.

Darren is constantly adding images to his portfolio. To check them out go to his MySpace page here.
Summit Studios website can be found

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