Photographer Interview: Marlene Hawthrone Thomas

Photographer Marlene Hawthrone Thomas

Check out Marlene’s photography portfolio, also see shots from recent work on her blog and follow her on Twitter @marlenephoto.

Where are you from?I come from a bicultural background; my mother is from San Salvador, El Salvador, and my father is from Atmore, Alabama.

I was born in Maryland, and spent the first half of life in Colorado and the other in the Washington D.C./Metropolitan area.

Currently I’m in Atlanta, GA pursuing my MFA in Photography at Savannah College of Art and Design.

What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started – any “formal” training? I shoot weddings and portraits mostly, but in between I shoot anything that inspires me. I’m deeply inspired visually by the vast world we live in, and I hope I never stop feeling that way, even when I’m 80 and (hopefully) well traveled and a little more cultured 🙂

When I was younger I remember my mother giving me a beat up 110 camera. I don’t remember having film for it, but I do recall having a really active imagination and taking ‘pretend pictures.’ When I got older I took a community college course in black and white photography and discovered how magical it was to see a print appear from the developer tray, in a room tinted a burnt orange by the safelight.

During undergrad at Howard University, I worked as a staff photographer for the student newspaper, The Hilltop, and it was such a rewarding experience because it taught me about getting the front page picture, deadlines, and all the in-between.

For the most part I’ve been self-taught (and on a continual path where I soak up everything I can!), and I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met along the way who have taught me what I know.

What cameras or techniques do you use?My first film camera was a Nikon FM10, for my black and white class, and I shot horrible pictures with it!

Currently I shoot with Canon digital SLRs, a couple beat up Yashica TLRs, occasionally large format, and a plastic Holga to bring me back to the basics when I get giddy over L series Canon lenses.

Who are your mentors (in photography)? Gordon Parks has been a great inspiration to me, as well as Irving Penn, Henri Cartier Bresson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, James Van der Zee, Richard Avedon, Josef Sudek, Seydou Keita, Graciela Iturbide, Deborah Willis, Carrie Mae Weems, Lola Alvarez Bravo, and Lorna Simpson, to name a few; the list seems infinite to me!

Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a woman and/or photographer of color? (this question is optional) I know that I’ll probably face a bit of adversity along the road of fine art; after all, the name alone defines it as something that is only accessible by an elite group. I’m hoping that through this journey, I’ll develop a thicker skin, and never lose sight of what I create art for.

When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer. When I got my first paycheck from raising my camera to my eye, I realized ‘hey, this isn’t that bad at all!’

There’s a saying that goes ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I wholeheartedly believe in that!

What do you hope to achieve with your photography? I hope to create work that stays in people’s minds.

What’s your dream photography project?
Travel the world and photograph, see my work in magazines, or have an infinite budget to play out the millions of ideas I have for photoshoots!

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