Mark Valentino is a fixture of the Long Island metal/hardcore scene, who keeps busy as a photographer, capturing both local and touring bands alike. When he's not shooting shows locally or on the road, he plays guitar in the death metal-minded outfit, Blame God:
Get to know Mark and his work behind the lens in this new Photographer Spotlight.
Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts?
I was born and raised on Long Island, NY. My dad is a musician and was the one that got me into music, and also got me my first guitar. My mom enjoys music, but doesn’t play any instruments. However, it was actually my uncle who got me into photography when I was really young.
What was your first musical love?
I’ll stand by this until the day I die, but Dream Theater was the first band I ever heard because my dad always played them around me when my parents were together and whenever I saw my dad, and they’ve definitely been a constant in my 22 years on this earth. Beyond that, I’ve been heavily into grindcore/death metal/hardcore/metalcore/etc. since I was really young. Aside from Napalm Death, since they’re, more or less, the ubiquitous grindcore band that everyone hears at some point in their lifetime, Pig Destroyer was one of the first grindcore bands I heard, and the way I heard about them is kinda funny. I was about 8-years-old playing Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, and "Gravedancer" by Pig Destroyer started playing.
Granted, it’s one of their more “mellow”’songs and not truly indicative of who they are as a band, that song made me want to check that band and Terrifyer as a whole out. The first time I heard that album, all I could think of was “what did I just hear?” 13 years later, I’m absolutely honored to have some of my photos from their set at Obnoxious Noise Fest 2018 in the album insert.
What is your camera and post set up?
I use a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II. I just use Lightroom for editing.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Oh man, I don’t know if I can list them all, because I would definitely be missing some. However, I have to thank The Dillinger Escape Plan (RIP) for being the most batshit insane live band around and one of the most fun bands to document. At the expense of sounding pompous, there’s one photo I took of them (specifically of Ben Weinman) at the NYC stop of their final US tour in 2016 that others have dubbed as “The Dillinger photo," and ultimately the photo I guess I’m most known for. I’m still proud of that photo, despite my style and such having grown since then, but I owe a lot to Dillinger as a whole. Other favorites include Converge, Full of Hell, Pig Destroyer... I can’t even think of any others, because there are so many. And this isn’t a band per se, but I absolutely love shooting at Maryland Deathfest, I’ve done it 3 times now and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s tiring and a lot of work (as well as great cardio), but it’s fun.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
Had you asked me this prior to a few months ago, one of the bands I would have said would be Isis, but I have the fortune to be shooting their reunion show in California in October. Other than that, I would have loved to have shot Disembodied/Martyr A.D. (I know both bands have been doing shows currently, but I’m talking about '90s/early '00s era), Death, Entombed (I’ve shot Entombed A.D., but it’s just not the same), Bolt Thrower, Black Sabbath in their earlier years... I’m just going off of memory, so I’m gonna sum it up in one phrase: if I had the opportunity to shoot every band that I listen to, whether they’ve disbanded or are still going, I would take it in a heartbeat.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting live shows?
Some of the toughest aspects of shooting live shows would have to be the lighting situation (I’ve shot in some really shitty situations before), dealing with crowd surfers/stage divers, and even dealing with other photographers. I’ve met many photographers who act like their shit don’t stink, and I can’t stand it. You’re not above me, I’m not above you, and we’re on the same playing field, and I’ll have no problem telling you that. I like to be personable, I like to have concersatins, and I like to meet other people. I do not like, however, egos that are bigger than the person projecting it. Lastly, gauging whether or not the band is getting annoyed at the photographer taking photos (specifically when you can use flash at a show). I see photographers obnoxiously fire their flash and also shoving the camera right in their faces for a band’s whole set. I’ve seen the looks on bands’ faces when they’ve had enough. I don’t like shooting whole sets anyway, I work quickly.
Is it getting tougher to carve a space out at venues since there are so many people shooting these days? How do you feel about that?
I never really thought about that, mostly because I just do my own thing and don’t really think about the other photographers there beyond making some light conversation with them. They’re just like me, doing their own thing, whether it’s a paid job they have to do or if it’s just a side hustle type deal. Are there days where I’m pissed at the photographer to crowd ratio? Sure. But who am I to complain about it, I’m right there with them and part of the problem. I just don’t pay any mind to it.
Tell me about some newer bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
Some newer bands you gotta look out for are, in no particular order: Kidnapped, Wreath of Tongues, Sanction, Hangman, Cryptodira, Carcosa, Deject, Silenus, Roseblood, MouthBreather, Yashira (I did a 7-day tour with them in late 2018), Horrible Earth, Bandit, Tourniquet... there are definitely a lot of others I’m missing and I’m sorry to those I’ve missed that are reading this.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
Firstly, I wanna give a shoutout to a very good friend of mine, Derek Soto (Instagram), because he is one of the first NYC photographers I met before I got into the concert photography game and he is definitely an influence of mine. Other than that, Chris Wiezorek (Instagram) is relatively new to it and has been killing it, Sean Ageman (Instagram), Craig Jay (Facebook) has been getting into it more lately and I’ve enjoyed his output, and lastly Vicky Carrature (No Echo Photographer Spotlight feature) has been grinding pretty hard at it.
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting bands/artists?
*see Mark's answer earlier in this interview where he mentions the following Dillinger Escape Plan photo:
Follow Mark on Instagram.
Tagged: photographer spotlight