Mark Kirby

“I was born and raised in my beloved South Carolina. For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in the same room of the only home my parents ever owned. I boarded a plane for the first time as a senior in high school, and haven’t stopped traveling since. I’ve worked in over 30 countries from Kazakhstan to Somalia, and visited almost 30 more. Despite my wanderlust, my heart and home will always be in South Carolina.

From my father, a WWII veteran and retired FBI Agent, I acquired a sense of duty to serve others while my mother, a professional musician, set fire to my passion for art and music. Those seemingly diverse influences have profoundly shaped my life and art. Since the days of my youth when I went from violin lessons to football practice, to the present when I take off my sidearm and pick up my camera, the convergence of duty and passion for art has driven my life. It has molded my photographic vision since the day my big brother handed me my first camera.

Unlike many photographers, I didn’t study art or film in college, and have no real training in photography. I developed my passion for photographing people while traveling a different path. After graduating from West Point, I served as an Army Ranger for five years, and have been an FBI Agent for over 22 years. My professional life often exposed me to humanity’s ugly side, but in the ugliness I found its beauty. Tolstoy taught we cannot appreciate peace without war. I recognize the goodness in humanity because I have seen its darker side.

I pick up my weapon to protect others from the worst of our society. I pick up my camera with hopes of changing it. I believe the more we understand each other, the greater our capacity for love. I hope my photographs allow us to see ourselves in others. The most rewarding experiences for my heart are when I stop and get to know the people most people ignore. During those countless conversations in the outdoor markets, along the alleys, in the mountains or near the sea, I have invariably discovered that we all share a common humanity. Despite our differences, we have felt joy, fear, sadness, pride, sorrow, and all the other emotions which in the end truly define life. We are all connected. We are all merely human.”