Mark Mahaney (b. 1979, USA) grew up in a small town outside of Chicago, and started

experimenting with photography in high school.

Something clicked, and after graduating, Mahaney went to art school directly and studied photography first in Chicago and then in Savannah, Georgia. In 2011, he moved to New York, where he soon got hired as an assistant to a portrait photographer. After five years of learning and working - for his mentor during the day and for himself at night - enough commissions of his own were coming in, enabling him to stop assisting and start independently as an assignment photographer.


Since then, Mahaney has created campaigns for clients such as Nike, AirBnB, Levi’s and IBM, shot big names like David Hockney and Elon Musk, and has seen his editorial shoots published in The New Yorker, Time, M Le Monde, Sixteen Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. Represented by Claxton Projects in New York and Kominek Gallery in Berlin, he has participated in exhibitions worldwide - Paris Photo in Paris, France and SF Camerawork in San Francisco, USA, to name a few. After ten years of assignment work, Mahaney shot his first personal project Polar Night in Utqiaġvik, an Arctic town that plunges into darkness for two months every year. He teamed up with Trespasser Books to publish a book about the project in late 2019. In 2020, he started his second personal project The Wooden House, a collaboration with his then eight year old daughter that reflects the bitterness, but also the sweetness of quarantine family life during the pandemic.


Through fragments, Mahaney creates a narrative. Though all his images are meaningful, they say something as a collective rather than to speak for themselves individually. With a carefully selected sequence of photographs, Mahaney constructs a complete story, setting the right mood by building the space or light on the spot. Sometimes this means using a lot of equipment, at other times he simply covers up the windows using only a piece of fabric. Literally highlighting what is relevant and special about each person or scene he photographs, Mahaney’s vision is innately democratic. Exactly this is what makes his images stand out from others: every detail has been thought out to create an image that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but actually conveys a mood, a feeling.


Fascinated by both transformation and preservation, Mahaney is especially interested in photographing small towns, creating ‘living documents’ of what was and is not anymore, or what has drastically changed over time. Intrigued by the American level of impermanence and indifference towards preserving buildings or national parks, Mahaney uses his camera to do the opposite: to freeze moments in time. With his portraits, still lives, landscapes and interiors, all put together in one story, he composes a time capsule that tells the unique tales of towns and their inhabitants, making them last forever.



As a gallery we are always on the lookout for work that fascinates, resonates if you will, and sticks to you. Work we would like to acquire for our own collection. We look everywhere, from fairs to the web and anything in between. In this search we stumbled upon a book entitled Polar Night by Mark Mahaney. Owning a vast library of photography books containing over 4.000 titles this was one that captivated us instantly.  
Seeing the works in real life we were determined to share the series with our audience. So we brought the work to Amsterdam. A selection of the series is now on show as part of the exhibition Exclamation Mark: a groupshow. To accompany this exhibition we asked Lola van de Graaff to interview Mark Mahaney about his practice and the making of Polar Night in particular.