A farewell to Mark Fox
Ryan Summerlin March 15, 2013
Editor’s note: Longtime Summit Daily photographer Mark Fox’s last day at the newspaper is today, when he leaves to pursue a new career in, of all things, blacksmithing. To mark the occasion, friends and former colleagues of Fox, M. John Fayhee and Alex Miller, conducted a Facebook chat, part of which is transcribed here. Alex Miller: So what was the SDN like in 1989 and what did the “photo department” look like?M. John Fayhee: We worked out of half of a building on 3rd Street in Frisco. For the first month, we had a photographer from Vail who drove over to Summit a few hours a day, then he drove the film back to the VD office for processing. Fox started about a month into the paper’s existence. Jim Pavelich, who started the VD and SDN, felt that the most important editorial position for any daily paper was its staff photographer. When Pavelich was interviewing photographers, one guy looked like an artsy-fartsy type, dressed like he had just flown in from a Greenwich Village art opening. The other guy was dressed in a suit. That was Mark Fox. Pavelich made the smartest hiring decision of his life when he went with Mark.AM: I can’t picture Mark in a suit. But OK. Thinking of Mark as a photographer, I appreciated how he always positioned himself as an observer. Even when he’s not wielding a camera, it’s often the stance he takes. MJF: I think the suit was suitably out of fashion. Yeah, there’s no doubt that Mark’s disposition has translated well to his photography. A lot of shooters make themselves the center of the scene they are photographing. Mark’s nature is to stand on the sidelines … he’s content to let the action play out around him. Another component of his photographic skill set is that he manages to make his subjects feel comfortable in his presence. AM: It’s true. Mark has the ability to go up and talk to strangers and get them to be in his shot without scaring them away.MJF: He emits a quiet sense of confidence, whether he’s in the presence of a reporter when he’s shooting or alone.AM: There was only once I’ve been out on something with Mark that his camera failed. And of course he shot in many very cold, very blizzardy situations and still somehow came back with the shot – and the cutline info.MJF: I’ve been with him when he actually forgot his camera. We were hell and gone up Georgia Pass doing a story on the first volunteer trail crew bringing the Colorado Trail into Summit County. Around dusk, we hear all this foul language coming from Mark’s truck and see gear flying all around … He had forgotten his camera bag and had to use my little point-and-shoot. Thing is, though: He still got a bunch of great photos.AM: So this blacksmith thing – I’m truly excited for Mark and very curious to see what he comes up with. He showed me a few early “training” pieces, but I imagine he’ll be moving into more interesting stuff before long.MJF: This interest in blacksmithing speaks volumes about Mark’s creative worldview. His photography has always maintained a very healthy relationship/balance between art and craft, which is necessary when you need to get a half-dozen compelling photos into print every day of the week. He has always been most interested from a photography standpoint in old stuff – deteriorating ranch buildings, old barns, cowboys and Indians, that sort of thing. It does not surprise me that he has become interested in a new creative outlet that is equal parts art and craft and that reflects his interest in old-timey stuff. I wholeheartedly admire his decision to take up something completely new and different at his advanced age.AM: Pushing outside one’s comfort zone is never easy, but this move makes a lot of sense to me for the reasons you mentioned. Plus, I think from a purely business standpoint, Mark has an established, trusted and even beloved brand in Summit County. I think people will be excited to see his work and buy it. MJF: I assume he’s thinking in terms of producing salable work. I think there’s more to it than that, though. I don’t know that he necessarily lives in the past, but I think he reflects positively upon a more deliberate, less digital time. I believe he is looking at his blacksmithing at least partially as performance art, a way to connect not just himself but others to another time, another way of doing things and looking at things. This is a bit out of character because, as you said earlier, with his photography, he likes to stand and observe. I don’t think he is inclined to merely hammer metal in a darkened room. I think he wants to show people how it’s done. And I think he wants to develop Popeye forearms and impress women.AM: So I know Mark may be somewhat embarrassed by this little hagiography, but I have to say I think the people of Summit County owe him a huge thank-you for chronicling the life of the place for the last quarter century. And certainly the newspaper would not have been what it was without his terrific work. MJF: It’s good that Mark is going to stay in Frisco and to stay visible and involved. I just hope the people of Summit County realize what a treasure they have in Mark Fox. I think they do, and I think that recognition speaks volumes about the people of The Summit.