Thode: Telling stories through pictures
PIPESTONE -- In both graphic design and photography, the image has a primary purpose: to tell a story. Mark Thode, both a full-time graphic artist at Pipestone Publishing and owner of Mark Thode Photography, was drawn to visual storytelling at a ...
PIPESTONE - In both graphic design and photography, the image has a primary purpose: to tell a story.
Mark Thode, both a full-time graphic artist at Pipestone Publishing and owner of Mark Thode Photography, was drawn to visual storytelling at a young age.
“I’ve always had a camera in my hand,” Thode said. “I think most photographers say that.”
However, taking pictures, as much as he adored it, never seemed like a career to Thode. It wasn’t until he took a photography class at Bemidji State University - required as part of the design technology curriculum to teach students what makes a good image - that he changed his mind.
“I think it shook something awake in me,” Thode said. “It wasn’t until that course where I was like, ‘maybe I can make it work.’”
When he successfully charged someone for a portrait in 2010, reality set in. It definitely could work.
A Pipestone native, Thode graduated from Pipestone Area High School in 2007 and Bemidji State University in 2011. His parents and family strongly encouraged him to pursue the arts and Thode, uninterested in studio arts, found that graphic design was a good medium between technology and art.
One of Thode’s photography inspirations, going back to his childhood, was Rachel Van Essen, an Edgerton photographer who owns Expressions Portrait Gallery in Pipestone.
By 2015, Thode’s business had become large enough that he needed a studio. In what was basically a dream come true, he began leasing studio space within Expressions that summer.
“It’s very surreal being in her studio now, knowing that 10 to 15 years ago I was looking up to her work and thinking, ‘I want to be her,’” Thode said.
His work consists mostly of weddings and family and graduation portraits. He doubles as a landscape photographer, opting to make natural scenery a major focus of his works.
“My uniqueness comes from a love for landscape photography and a love from injecting my portraits into the landscape,” Thode said.
Though they’re the most stressful and time-consuming, weddings are his favorite, as they offer the strongest potential for storytelling.
The business has grown considerably over the years, bringing Thode a new challenge - making sure the business doesn’t get too big.
“Because I’m employed full-time, I’m a bit selective, especially when it comes to weddings,” Thode said. “I could book 15 to 20 weddings per season but I choose not to, because it just gets too busy for me.”
As much as Thode enjoys doing weddings and family portraits, he wants to do more and further explore the possibilities of photographic storytelling.
“I’d like to find an outlet where I can create images that have an intent amount of purpose,” Thode said.
He’s already started to do just that. In November, for Veteran’s Day, Thode took photos of World War II and Korean War veterans living in Ridge View Estates in Pipestone. Though they weren't instructed to do so, some veterans came in partly dressed in their uniform.
“Not all veterans are comfortably telling their story in narrative form, but visually, with a compelling picture, that they’re more comfortable with,” Thode said. “My goal was to sit them down and knowing they’d done this honorable service, I wanted to juxtapose that in a casual manner.”
The images were on display at Ridge View Estates. They captured a different kind of emotion, a poetic visual story that Thode was not used to.
He didn’t get paid a cent for his work, but Thode wants more where that came from.