Sunday Focus: What Makes Mark Click

Krajnak1_MG_3670

Self Portrait, 2017, for SQUARE

Awhile ago, I used to run these features called Sunday Focus. I liked highlighting other photographers I know and like, but I got a little lazy and stopped pursuing them. Maybe I’ll try to do more.

Anyway, here’s one…sort of. I was recently interviewed by my job for our internal website called SQUARE. They like to highlight the interesting things our employees do in their off time – their passions, basically. Because of my photography, they interviewed me. (Actually, I guess I’ve been in it twice. They interviewed a guy who keeps bees on our company property – workplace is fine with that – and they used my photos in the story)

In case you don’t  know a lot about me, thought I’d reprint it here. Going to run it straight, not include the images they asked me to send to them (I sent them a bunch, but they picked one of Springsteen, one from Ethiopia, one of my son behind home plate and one of Flo in India. And the portrait that leads this piece.)

Here’s what makes me click, as their headline said:

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From R&D and Supply Chain to Sales and Marketing, and everything in-between, it takes a lot of people with diverse skill sets to make our multi-billion-dollar organization run. In this series, meet Janssen employees who work behind the scenes to help bring our products to life and make our Janssen community a great place to work

Mark Krajnak, Janssen’s Manager, Strategic Communications, his trusty Canon 70D DSLR camera, and his little pink plush Beanie Baby pig named Flo have traveled throughout the U.S. and to a dozen other countries, both for work and on his own, in pursuit of his passion for “visual storytelling.” But Mark was well-established in his corporate communication career before he even owned a camera or knew photojournalism existed.

Camera Exposure

“When I was growing up, the family camera only came out at birthdays or holidays. And, I didn’t have any photography classes or clubs in high school or while studying mass communications at La Salle University,” he recalls. “At 17, I was a stringer for a local northeast Pennsylvania newspaper, then I covered the pharmaceutical industry for MedAdNews magazine. In 1998, I joined Pharmacia & Upjohn, and one of my first assignments was overseeing photo shoots for its annual report. I’d watch the photographers work — this was still in the film days — and got interested in their craft. The more photo shoots I went on, the more I asked questions, the more I wanted to dive in. The first time I went to Europe on an annual report photo shoot, I had one of those disposable Kodak cameras that you dropped off at the drugstore to be developed. But even with that, I can see now I was trying to develop my eye.”

After five years with Pharmacia followed by a year in the corporate affairs group at Genentech in San Francisco, Mark returned to the East Coast in 2004 to join Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development — “J&J PRD, if anyone remembers that” — in the media relations group. From 2008 to 2013, as part of the J&J corporate communication team, he redesigned and managed jnj.com, oversaw the award-winning annual report, curated the corporate image gallery and, of course, art directed photo shoots.

Since 2013, as part of the Pharmaceuticals Stakeholder Activation Team, he has been responsible for the redesign and management of janssen.com, and he also drives Janssen’s digital strategies through social media properties such as @JanssenGlobal on Twitter, the Janssen YouTube channel and the Janssen LinkedIn page.

Focusing on Documentary Photography

As both his career and his interest in photography progressed, he continued developing his eye, using the web on his own time to search out sites, blogs and videos, and to study the great LIFENational Geographic and newspaper photojournalists.

“I enjoy documentary photography because of my journalistic roots,” he says. “I like to tell the story, and while one photo may be worth a thousand words, a photo essay can say so much more. I shoot ‘entire to detail,’ showing the whole environment, then homing in on details. I usually shoot in sequence and try to build the story through my photos — even for family vacation shots!”

At Johnson & Johnson, Mark has been taking photos of — and been inspired by — many employees, patients, healthcare workers, doctors and nurses touched by the company’s products and services in Africa, Belgium, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, London, Nicaragua and Russia, as well as locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. He was particularly moved by a photo shoot in Detroit, Michigan for a story in the J&J annual report about a three-year old boy with Down syndrome named Christian. “He was the same age as my youngest son,” Mark recalls. “He had been through so much, but he was so positive and upbeat. I still think about him.”

‘Take a Good Look Around — This Is Your Hometown’

Outside of work, Mark’s images have appeared in the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, and other print and online publications, as well as on albums and book covers, and in an exhibit at The Photo Place Gallery in Vermont. He especially enjoys highlighting his home state of New Jersey. For the past nine years, on New Year’s Day, he has photographed the Sons of Ireland Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser on the beach in Asbury Park. “More than 500 people plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, and I get in with them to take pictures,” he says. “I’m waterproofed, but I still take on some water protecting my camera. I hope one of these years it snows!”

And, as every Jersey boy apparently does, Mark has his own Bruce Springsteen stories.

“While I do enjoy his music, his talent as a fiction writer is what draws me to him,” Mark says. “I’ve never met him. But, I have taken photos for Backstreets.com, the Springsteen fan website. In April 2017, at the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival, I was photographing The Upstage Jam, which commemorates the Upstage music club where local musicians, including Springsteen, jammed in the early 1970s. Bruce was a few feet away, playing guitar and singing with Little Steven Van Zandt and Southside Johnny Lyon. Those three legends of the Asbury Park music scene don’t appear on the same stage much anymore, so I was happy to get some very cool shots.”

Hamming It Up with Flo

And what about the Beanie Baby pig?

“Back in December 2001, Flo the pig lived on a bookcase with my girlfriend, Leslie, who is now my wife,” Mark explains. “When I left for a trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan, I snuck Flo into my travel bag. Digital cameras were just starting, and I e-mailed Leslie a photo of Flo standing next to a 25-foot Santa Claus. Flo told her, ‘Hi, I’m traveling with Mark. I’m good. Be home soon.’ Little did I realize Flo would travel with me for the next 16 years and counting. As you can see in our Travels of Flo blog post, we’ve had some great adventures together.”

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So there you have it. A little background about me The story on SQUARE has been viewed over 1,000 times now, with about 20 comments. People love the Flo story.

And, I actually did my portrait in that particular t-shirt for a reason: To raise awareness about Asbury Park and how the local music scene has helped revived the city. In the comments section of the SQUARE article, more than a few people asked where they could get that t-shirt. I’ve directed them to the Asbury Park Music Foundation website as all proceeds go to the local kids music scene in Asbury Park.

So, my intention worked! The power of photography, folks. Keep after it.

Hope you enjoyed this little insight into me and my past. What I like to show is how I can sustain my passion for photography right through my job. I know I’m fortunate to be able to do this – that’s not lost on me. I hope it can continue!

© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2017

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