GRIN, by Mark T., age 18. Grand Canyon National Park


GRIN, by Mark T., age 18. Grand Canyon National Park

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Mark came to America from Russia in 2011, not speaking any English. He started at Venice Arts soon after he arrived. At Venice Arts Mark discovered photography, learned he had a great eye for light, and became a prolific photographer. Photography also served as an easy way in to feeling comfortable at school. In 2014, Mark was one of four Venice Arts students who went on the trip of a lifetime to the Grand Canyon, where they rafted down the Colorado River on a sponsored art exploration trip.

In Mark’s own words:

“I moved to the city of endless summer in 2011. As much as I do not want to go into the old immigrant story, I have to admit that my baggage consisted of a backpack on my shoulders and few words in English in my head.

I knew no one other than my parents. I established a “safe bubble”—just being on my own all the time. I was not comfortable making friends out of fear that they would not be able to understand me. However, my grandma suggested I enrolled in Venice Arts. After exploring animation, directing, and moviemaking, I finally landed on photography.

Initially for me, photography was a communication device while I was developing my English. But now it's transformed into my personal canvas, where I have the ability to experiment with what I depict. Since most of my time is spent attending school, many of my subjects are schoolmates, and my photography usually takes place there.

With my camera, I try to portray those precious moments I am living right now—the moments that I would like to come back to later in my life. I am currently working on the project revolving around my half-sister, who recently immigrated to the United States. Through examining her case, I would like to tell the story of immigration as it seen through three different ages, three different personalities, and three different siblings.”