Cougar InterView—Mark Visser ’12

by University Relations

Photographer Mark Visser ’12 presents a study in contrasts. At an imposing 6 feet 3 inches, he often lives out of the back of his truck traveling the country and photographing vast wilderness scenes with human subjects, the size of pinpoints, nearly lost in the scale. His grand, humbling landscapes, in fact, reflect the man himself.

APU LIFE: How and why did you embark on this endeavor?

VISSER: Originally, my dream had been to make films. After studying screenwriting and working for a short stint at Cartoon Network, I realized that I wanted to have more control over my work. Filmmaking, especially in Hollywood, doesn’t allow for that. Photography, however, gives me the opportunity to direct a project all the way through from beginning to end. I fell in love with the fact that I was able to create content so quickly, all without the aid of a production crew.

APU LIFE: What message do you hope to convey by presenting this perspective on life?

VISSER: That success isn’t about taking amazing pictures, but about how a great photographer can inspire someone through his or her passion and hard work. I’ve had some extraordinary opportunities to learn from experienced wilderness and landscape photographers who work hard to teach others how to create beautiful art and persevere through tough times. In the arts, everything comes down to community. It’s vital to be able to share what you’ve created and learned with a good community who is going to care about it.

APU LIFE: What inspires you?

VISSER: I’m inspired by my early memories of exploring the mountains, camping, hiking, and sharing incredible outdoor moments with friends and family. My faith inspires me too. I believe your vocation or calling can truly be a blessing from God if you’re willing to accept it. Photography was not necessarily my number one choice, but it’s allowed me the flexibility to serve in other ways that I never would have imagined.

APU LIFE: As an entrepreneur, what obstacles have you faced?

VISSER: Right now, in photography, there are so many opportunities. However, it seems for every opportunity there are dozens more qualified people to fill that role. The struggle for me has been finding the right market and where my skills fit in best. As I’ve struggled during my down seasons, my biggest encouragement has come from other artists who are going through similar struggles. I’ve found a lot of that in the art studio at Jubilee Roasting Co. When you feel like giving up, it’s encouraging to have other people there to help you find that drive again.

APU LIFE: Is there an elusive image you hope to capture one day?

VISSER: I’ve always wanted to shoot more photos of animals, but I’m a pretty loud hiker. I’m always humming to myself or whistling, so I think I scare everything away before I get a chance to capture it. But, photographing a lynx is my all-time dream.

APU LIFE: What advice do you have for others seeking to turn their passion into their career?

VISSER: Whatever you’re pursuing in life, work hard at it. Whether or not you end up doing exactly what you thought you would be, the value of having worked hard for something never changes.

Originally published in the Winter '16 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.