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Rising Stars: Meet Mario Winston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mario Winston.

Hi Mario, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been around art most of my life. I’ve been drawing since I was three and in art classes since 1st grade. Art and beauty fuel me every single day of my life and I’ve always dreamed of making a career out of it. I couldn’t afford to go to any of the art schools I got into so I went to some community colleges and a private college (I’m still paying off) for a couple of years to end up working in an IT job for going on ten years now. I started doing photography on the side back in 2011 to try and get better images for my oil paintings and murals but loved the instant gratification of get paid, shoot, edit, deliver, done. I always thought the way I saw the world and beauty as an artist would help me create more unique, cinematic photographs that could evoke a response or emotion. I’ve done weddings, clubs, babies, families, and nearly everything else I could try for the last ten years. I always loved the idea of stopping people in their tracks to admire the beauty I create. Whether it’s me sitting in a bar drawing in my sketchbook with a crowd around me or thousands of people scrolling through their feed to stop and admire my images and say, “wow, that is beautiful”. The Quarantine of 2020 is when everything changed. My fiance had just moved to OKC from Tulsa with her and her two kids and we were all huddled up inside of a cramped two-bedroom apartment me and my son.

When spring break hit and everything started shutting down, Neisha lost her job at a local newspaper and I started working from home. With both of our photography businesses coming to a screeching halt and weddings (our biggest income) started getting postponed and canceled, we had to adapt to the new environment we were shoved in. While I worked, Neisha was shooting and studying throughout the day to figure out how we could migrate our business into our home. The dynamic worked incredibly well as she started teaching me more about photoshop and lighting. At first, I started with my double exposure series but I still felt like the concepts and storytelling were missing depth and emotion from myself. I have always loved how the old masters could tell these incredible stories with every little detail of their paintings and I wanted to figure out a way to do that. When it came to the start of our renaissance series, Neisha and I were studying the lighting of one of our favorite photographers, thetogfather, and we were able to play around with a digital backdrop from a museum website to add in. I felt like the painting backdrops mixed with the way I edit the image successfully merge both my love of photography and drawing/painting together in one cohesive piece. We continue to experiment with new concepts, new lighting setups, new stories and work with other creatives in order to keep growing and to continue to learn more. I can’t wait to see what the future brings with the series.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It definitely hasn’t. I still have my primary job as an IT Support Manager along with being a partner and a father of 3. I work super long hours late at night and then wake up to start my normal 9-5 in the morning. When the kids are home, we have family time and then it’s back to editing until about 2 or 3 am. Since I’ve been doing this on my own for nearly ten years, I’ve had to learn the hard way of when I’m overdoing it or I’m taking on too much. My anxiety got pretty overwhelming this past year and started doing therapy and taking medication to help it. Honestly, I feel like this renaissance series saved me since my business can solely concentrate on fine art photography now instead of weddings, families, couples, etc.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a professional photographer but an artist at heart which is why I believe my images stand out so much. The process I’ve created for my series reminds me of how I build layers with oil paintings. I studied Caravaggio back in college and I loved how he started with a dark canvas and brought his subjects into the light. I always loved the drama and contrast that came with his storytelling in each painting and it gave this epic feel to his subjects or the story he was trying to tell. I wanted to do the same with having my models and clients portrayed as Gods and goddesses inside of the frame. It’s as if the viewer is getting the opportunity to set their eyes on these epic subjects and events of pure beauty. I love dramatic lighting and cinematic angles and have always had a fascination with the old renaissance masters and the beautiful style of the pre-Raphaelites that I feel heavily influence my work. I always imagine “…what if this image shows up on the jumbotron in NYC one day (fingers crossed)” and how I would want it to look on there. Each image, from shooting to editing, was done differently every time. I ensure I take the time to make these images as crisp and as beautiful as I can and I hope everyone enjoys them.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
You can’t do everything. When you try too much, you lose focus in so many areas. Honing in on what you enjoy doing the most and trying to grow in that particular area is the most rewarding.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Neisha T Ford

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