Capturing the visual artistry and passion of a Wash Park photographer.
BY SAMI JO LIEN
Andrew Clark is everything you’d expect of an English bloke; polite, worldly, cultured. But the thing that stands out most is how immediately you feel at home in his presence — whether over tea or when in front of his camera lens.
His photography has been praised by Shutterbug Magazine and many well-known families from Wall Street to Hollywood including the Coors family (yes, that one) and the Ford family (yep, that one, too). He’s received seven ICON Awards for photography and cinematography and the Honorable John Hickenlooper has called Clark’s work “vibrant, interestingly composed and arresting.” His Google reviews are five star: masterful, kind, generous, insightful and a pleasure to work with.
Although Clark’s passion for visual creativity was stoked from an art scholarship when he attended Rugby School as a teenager (where the famous game was originally invented in England), photography was just a blip on his radar when he moved from England to Denver about 35 years ago. It wasn’t until 2001, and a spontaneous (and admittedly inebriated) resolution at one-minute-to-midnight on New Year’s Eve, that he quit his full-time career in commercial real estate on January 1st and set off down a path towards an incredible career in photography, and now filmmaking, that is housed right here in Wash Park.
Tucked four blocks south of Denver’s beloved South Gaylord street shops and restaurants is the home of Andrew Clark Studio. Previously home to a printing company in the 1950s, and later the Cherry Point Masonic Temple, Clark happened to drive by what was a dilapidated commercial building in 2009 when it was for sale. With the real estate agent close by, Clark toured the building an hour later and instantly knew the 18’ by 100’ ugly concrete box with 12’ ceilings had the perfect dimensions for a superb portrait studio. “I knew I could make flawless studio portraits with a single soft box; the high white ceilings and narrow width provide the golden ratio for a soft fill-light without the intimidating clutter of multiple strobes,” says Clark. “The next thing you know, I’m making an offer, they accepted it, and I’m buying a building I can’t afford. God bless The Crash of 2008.”
Clark renovated the windowless building from top to bottom, which won it an architectural award, and now resides in a modern studio which is state-of-the-art. Clean, minimalist and very brightly lit with luxurious north light, it’s a perfect environment for both his photography and film work, as well as the high-energy, hands-on workshops he leads on portraiture and wedding photography. A big supporter of arts education everywhere, Clark hosts an irregular event which he calls ephemera, which is a one-night salon for “normal folks with an unexpectedly remarkable hidden artistic skill.” Ephemera has showcased over 30 hugely-talented musicians, comics, painters, sculptors, photographers, yogis, magicians and even Denver’s poet laureate, Chris Ransick, to highly eclectic audiences of friends and neighbors. We’re hoping to sneak onto the invite list for future festivities. And as Clark, the eternal host, says, “ephemera is way better than TV will ever be, because people come here and actually talk to each other.”
Throughout the last couple of decades, Clark has traveled regularly to over 20 countries, in many of which he has photographed multi-million dollar weddings for his well-heeled and very private clientele. “I love photographing wedding stories because there’s great beauty, emotion, spontaneity and authenticity all around you if you’re paying attention,” he says. “It’s incredibly hard to be good at photographing them; and that’s a really good reason to wake up on a Saturday – it’s always a huge challenge for me. It’s anywhere, any weather, any light, with unwilling subjects, and no redos; The pressure doesn’t get any higher but I’m just mad enough to love it.”
Lucky to obtain one of the very first Canon 1D digital cameras in 2002, Clark was one of the first photographers in Colorado to adopt digital. And just like most transitions, the industry wasn’t swift to follow suit.
He spent a lot of time explaining to clients how digital capture was far better than film for weddings and portraits because it allowed for the making of many more pictures, it provided the security of instant feedback and it rewarded practitioners with a much faster learning curve when testing new techniques. And with Photoshop, Clark produced far higher quality prints. “I want every picture to be perfectly concise because
I’m telling a story; visual communication, a lot like verbal communication, is about editing out distractions and elegantly displaying the essence
of something beautiful. There’s little room in today’s ultra-competitive economy for anyone but the best niche experts in any industry, so I love the constant incentive of always being required to improve, even after a lifetime of making pictures.”
His patience, hard work and reputation have cemented Clark’s credibility in the industry; he’s worked with at least six families from the Forbes 400 and many other public figures from politics, business, sports and the arts throughout the US and beyond.
While Clark still anticipates a few more big wedding assignments in his future, he has mostly shifted his focus to portraiture, which he loves, for both private and corporate clients, and more recently, into commercial and documentary filmmaking. Today, his filmmaking business helps all types of public and private companies with branding and visual communications challenges. “I like the complexity of the filmmaking process,” says Clark. “I get to know someone really well when I make a portrait, but when I make a film about them, it’s even more intimate. It’s conversation, collaboration and the editing of sound to action footage. And the visual impact of moving imagery compels the viewer to watch it even more closely and for much longer. It’s significantly harder than still photography, and it’s a far more effective way to communicate an emotional message.”
Clark’s goal this year is to complete a documentary on a new type of global education – inspired by the dismal fact that we are failing as a society to educate huge populations of our younger generations for the warp-speed changes in the world ahead. He expects to raise seven figures to make something helpful that touches on parenting, childhood learning, different education systems around the world, the US college debt trap, and “how an arts-based and curious approach to life can bring contentment to anyone, and peace to societies everywhere.” I have no clue on how, what or why, he jokes, but his track record has us convinced we’ll see something unique, intelligent and compelling from him in the not-too-distant future.
Wash Park neighbors, maybe you have some cool ideas on how to make this happen? Andrew Clark is easy to reach…