As I write my first KEH blog post, I’m reminded of how I started my life as a photographer. As a ten-year-old in a Catholic grade school, students were expected to participate in candy sales to raise money to build a new church. These sales always had some prize incentive to the students selling the most boxes of candy. First prize for this contest was a new bike and since I had never owned one, I decided I was going to win and ride away with the bike. I sold candy everywhere and just knew that on the day the winners were announced, the bike was mine. I couldn’t contain myself as I sat on the edge of my chair in the school auditorium as they were about to call my name, I began to get up as the envelope with the winner’s name was being opened by the mother in charge of the candy sale, only to be abruptly stopped as she read off her son’s name who just happened to sell one more box of candy than I did. Second prize was a camera outfit. As the song by the Rolling Stones goes, “you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need”. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a profound affect not winning the bike had on my life. For me it has led to a life-long love affair with photography that has had many unique opportunities and in the process, continued to change my life. The latest turn is my position with KEH Camera.
Since the early years of my career, my aspirations as a photographer have always followed two parallel paths – my fine art photography and photography in ophthalmology.
My education includes an Associate degree in Applied Science in Photography, a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Photography, a Master of Arts in Humanities, and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography & Communication Design.
The medium of black and white photography has played a major role on the personal photography side of my life. In college I was taught basic photography using a 4 X 5 view camera and black and white film. In fact, for my first year in school we didn’t use 35mm cameras. Ansel Adams was popular both as an artist and educator. His series of books, The Camera, The Negative and The Print, became my bible. Throughout my career I have been known for my black and white work switching from film to digital with the introduction of full-frame 35mm size sensors.
The pursuit of my own personal fine art photography and documentary photographic projects began in 1973 when I switched my education emphasis from printing to photography. Once I chose photography as my major, my goal was to become a documentary photographer. Unfortunately for me, Life magazine, the preeminent showcase for long-term still documentary projects, went out of business just as I began my studies. I looked at documentary photography as a means by which I could tell stories that would help people.
While still in school, I was assigned work on a research paper about some aspect of photography I didn’t know anything about. I chose the field of medical photography and my photographic life changed. If I was looking for some way to use photography to help people, medical photography was the perfect path. Using my photographic skills, I was able to assist doctors in their research, training and patient care. After three years in this position I was introduced to the medical specialty of ophthalmic photography and quickly jumped at an opportunity to work in the field. In ophthalmic photography, specialized cameras are used inside and around the eye to record images that assist different ophthalmic specialists in the diagnosis, research and treatment of ocular disorders. I thought what better way for a photographer to help people than with their vision.
For over 35 years I have been considered a leader in in the field of ophthalmic imaging, and I consider it an honor as a photographer to have contributed to the preservation of eyesight. I have been director of ophthalmic photography at Emory University in Atlanta, clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY), and adjunct professor of photography in the Biomedical Photography program at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Significant accomplishments include instituting the only Bachelor of Science degree program in ophthalmic photography at SUNY, receiving the 2012 Outstanding Contribution to Ophthalmic Photography from the Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society (OPS), and serving as president of the OPS for two terms beginning in 1989. As an ophthalmic consultant and education provider, I have served as director of strategic technology for the ORBIS International Flying Eye Hospital.
These experiences have helped shape both halves of my photographic life. Learning a skill in one area would ultimately translate into a skill in the other. Leading a non-profit ophthalmic education organization gave me insight when I became the executive director of a non-profit art organizations. Teaching in one field gave me the knowledge and confidence to present lectures, workshops or complete educational programs in the other. I was selected by Adobe in 2006 as one of twelve individuals to form their Biomedical Imaging Advisory Group, consulting on the initial versions of Adobe Photoshop that implemented medical, technical and scientific digital imaging tools.
In the late 1990s I adapted digital imaging technology from commercial photography to ophthalmic photography, resulting in my development of the first high-resolution digital imaging system in ophthalmology and ultimately starting my own medical device company. Finally, I was able to combine my photographic skills with the business and educational knowledge I had been developing over my entire career.
Black and white fine art images from my photographic work have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the country and are included in many collections – both private and public. The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography purchased a portfolio of 12 prints from my “Against the Grain” project in 2007 for their permanent collection. Some of my projects in recent years include Buffalo’s Irish grain scoopers, family owned tobacco farms in Kentucky, the culture of a level one trauma center, saving sight in the developing world and the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Most recently I’ve begun visually documenting the cotton industry in Georgia. More of my images can be seen at: www.markmaio.com
I look forward to sharing our mutual passion for photography. As KEH expands its community engagement, I will be working directly with professional photographers and a variety of photographic organizations. Activities include speaking at camera clubs throughout the US and representing KEH in their partnerships with national organizations such as the Professional Photographers Association (PPA), the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and the Society for Photographic Education (SPE). Here in Atlanta, home to KEH Camera, KEH is committed to supporting the Atlanta Photography Group and Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
Thanks to KEH for their sponsorship of my photography workshops across the United States and in Scotland, where my wife Catherine and I have a second home on the Isle of Skye. Upcoming 2017 workshops include Silo City in Buffalo, NY and the Personal Photographic Project in Atlanta, GA. I also lecture and conduct workshops in ophthalmic imaging through www.EyeTeachU.com.