Silhouette of the Jumpman
Photographs by Mark Jayson Quines
Interview recorded at the artist's studio in San Francisco, California , June 2017
Earlier this year, Mark celebrated his first solo show at Book & Job Gallery in San Francisco, exhibiting his NOBODY project- an investigation of the expanding spectacle, subculture, and brand that surrounds Michael Jordan- of which select images appear below. In December, he’ll open a show of the same body of work at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center.
What’s the driving force compelling you to make photographs?
I guess trying to say something that hasn’t been said, ya know what I mean? Or to say something that you have noticed, or experienced, and there isn’t anyone else that has said it or can explain it in the exact way, but you know you’ve seen it, or you’ve experienced it.
And I still want to explore that. I feel like there’s always more. I can’t be okay, with like, ‘okay, cool, this is it, this is all that has been made now, and I feel good about what’s been said about, what does it mean to be living today.’ I think that’s the challenge […] Good photography tells you, 'This is how living is like today.'
Your someone who it seems needs to make art, where do you think that comes from?
In some ways that seems pretty selfish, but I think all art is inherently (for the most part) pretty selfish. But I think it depends also on your intent in the work. It can also be a wakeup call and it’s a reflection about yourself. Like, when you take those pictures, I would say most people - or at least I would hope so - that the pictures you took at a young age are a lot different than the pictures that you take now. And so, in seeing how your experiences are, it’s a mirror for yourself to see yourself a little bit.
Also, it can open up other thoughts of exploration after that. A lot of times, if you go in a lot deeper, it sorta becomes not about yourself. It becomes more about… it’s you, because it involves you, but then it involves other people. It’s like, what we were talking about earlier, finding yourself through others.
What is that keeps you photographing?
Part of it is trying to find your voice in something. I would say that I wasn’t always the most vocal person, I definitely had a lot of thoughts and things internally, and maybe part of [photography] was that it was a way to release some of those ideas in a different way.
If I have to answer it, I think it’s a lot of things. I think, yeah, it’s saying things that haven’t been said in a general sense, but also… I just feel like maybe there’s times where I feel like I’m searching for something and I don’t know what it is. Sometimes it’s something that I have experienced and I’m trying to figure out how to say it, in metaphor of today. Sometimes I feel like, how do I let people know how I feel in a way that can be revisited and concrete, so that I can revisit it and understand it. But also, so other people, even though they might not get it 100% or the way that I do, can at least ask questions about it.
Part of it is just wanting to explore things, and just being keenly interested. Like, wanting to dive deeper into something that I’m keenly interested in. If it’s a subculture for instance, that I like and I want to dive into it more, how do I do that?
Sometimes it’s an excuse of just being a photographer. I think a lot of people actually let you in their lives when you have a camera, cause then they know that their also going to be remembered somehow, in that sense too, they’re being recorded. You’re documenting their lives and they also feel important.
I think, if you want a grand answer, I think part of it is… wanting to be… I’m gonna be sappy, but… to be loved a little bit more.
And part of that attention is sometimes, I wouldn’t say it’s always, but I think it can be a process to receiving love. And when I say love, I mean, someone is noticing you, giving you the time and attention to recognize the you exist.
If photography is a way for you to organize thoughts, what was the thought you wanted to organize in the NOBODY project?
Yeah, I mean, that was like a way to organize my experience… I mean it’s about Michael Jordan, and the subculture, and spectacle, and the search for Apex through his identity and symbol.
What is 'Apex?'
Apex means being the best. It’s like the roof. The most. The zenith. And so, Micheal Jordan symbolizes that to a lot of people.
And so, talking about branding identity, people want those shoes. People see that logo - the Jumpman, the silhouette of the Jumpman - and they want to be attached to that. Owning the shoes is one example of his brand that is pushed forward. Like, “those Jordans, those J’s.” I mean you can wear it, you can literally be in his shoes, like these are his shoes, these are Jordan’s shoes. You can walk in his shoes.
At a really young age, that was something that I was being surrounded by.
And maybe it speaks about experience being a Filipino American. In the sense that, ya know, having to identity with something that was as easy as a brand.
Where does the title, NOBODY, come from?
'Nobody' is the opposite of somebody. Jordan, I would say is definitely ‘somebody’ because we all recognize him, but at the same time he’s ‘nobody.’ The idea is like… having to be very well known… equating that to wanting to be somebody, or at lease the desire to be known, to be somebody… but at the same time when you’ve become so well know you’re almost nobody.
One way I actually got to the title of NOBODY is a quote by a Japanese artist, and he says, “Being famous means being nobody because everybody knows you. It doesn’t really mean anything.”