Mark Bennington, a well-known Los Angeles based portrait photographer, is currently working on “Living the Dream: The life of the Bollywood actor”, a documentary photography book about the Acting community in Mumbai, India. Mark is also a featured contributor for LA Times and Wall Street Journal.
Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Mark Bennington; I’m a photographer based in LA and originally from Northern California. I was an actor for ten years in NY and LA, doing mostly regional theatre and guest-stars on TV to pay the bills. However in 2004 I got into photography, quite by chance and have been making my living shooting portraits of actors here in LA ever since. A couple of years ago I got more into documentary photography and started working on a project documenting the real lives of Hollywood actors.
What is “Living the Dream” project all about?
In 2010, I went to India as a working vacation. It lead me into the then completely unknown world of “Bollywood.” It was one of those incredibly serendipitous times, where I just happened to stay at the right place, which led to meeting the right person who introduced me to another right person that created the possibility of this project. That person was Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyab’s co-producer. She took me under her wing and later introduced me to Yash Raj Films casting director Shanoo Sharma, who took the project to a whole other level with not only her contacts, but her undying passion and belief in the project.
“Living the Dream: The Life of the ‘Bollywood’ Actor”, is an unprecedented look into the real lives of ‘Bollywood’ actors. The motto was always ‘Student to Star’ and everyone in between. This documentary photography book will first be an e-book and later this year published as a limited edition coffee table book and mini gift size book. It will be the preeminent book on ‘Bollywood’ actors and a must have for every ‘Bollywood’ enthusiast… All can be seen at www.markbennington.com and the e-book will soon be available at www.livingthedreambollywood.com.
So could you speak Hindi now?
Tora tora… ma abhee Hindi seekh raha hoon (smiles).
What is your one best achievement thus far?
Completing this book and doing it in exactly the way I imagined… covering the entire acting community as if it were a tree, wanting to represent every branch and doing it with honesty and dignity. I knew nothing about ‘Bollywood’ when I first arrived in Mumbai with this idea, knew no one and was doing this whole thing on credit cards. Funny, when I tell people about this project they say, “That’s so cool, how did you get that job?” I say, “I made it up” (smiles).
How would you describe your style?
The magic of everyday life…. Humanistic, playful and authentic to what I believe is that person’s essence, which I realize as I write it, philosophers, would have a field day with!! But the truth is I love what I do and I think it shows.
Any upcoming projects or initiatives you would like to discuss?
I’ve almost completed my second book, which is called “Foot Book”, images about the isolated perspective of feet, a perspective that automatically engages the viewer with questions of, ‘Who is this person?… What are they doing?… and Where are they?’ It’s a fun interesting little book. In terms of assignments, I’m looking now toward working with NGO’s both in India and in Africa. Would love to work both with Habitat For Humanity and World Vision.
What are your leisure time activities?
Well, for years I played drums with a Roots/Rock band here in LA call ‘50cent Haircut’, but have since moved away from that scene. I mostly enjoy spending time with my close friends and ever discussing the meaning of life. I also love to camp, hike, play scrabble, write haiku, plus recently my girlfriend and I have been ballroom dancing and have discovered the magical world of crossword puzzles – it’s great fun!
If you could live anywhere where would you build your dream home?
Hahaha, I love this question!! Well, the place where I feel most “at home” is the Pacific Northwest. So, I would have to say, building a beautiful artist cabin in a place like Big Sur or on the Oregon Coast – that would be a great home base to come and go from assignments and raise children.
Thank you and say hi to my Bollywood friends out their!