Mark Laita is the photographer behind some of the longest-running and highest-profile ads in the storied Apple campaign. But his work is much better known than his name. Laita's aversion to self-promotion is unusual for a photographer of his caliber, and it's practically unheard of in the competitive world of commercial photography. "I turn interviews down because most articles on photographers are hard to read," says Laita. "The word 'I' comes up a lot."
Laita, 46, specializes in super clean, graphic product advertising photography and is regarded as one of the best at it. In addition to his Apple Computer work for TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles, his photographs appear in ads for Mini, out of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and adidas for TBWA/Chiat/Day San Francisco. "Apple was one of the campaigns that helped open the flood gates for my career," he says. "I've gotten tons of business just based on those images, which is wonderful because that's the type of work I love-simple, clean and graphic." Which brings to mind the Apple ad with a dozen candy-colored iMacs packed into a glass jar like gumballs or, more recently, of an iMac striking elegant Evangelista-like poses, showing off its latest aerodynamic flat screen.
"It was Mark's Neutrogena work that caught our eye," says Chiat art director Susan Alinsangan, recalling the photographer selection process for Apple's 1998 iMac launch. "What really impressed us was the feeling of ultimate control it conveyed. Even with something so fluid, everything felt very precise, calculated and effortless." Ever humble, Laita credits Alinsangan and her co-art director at the time, John Avery (now at Deutsch), for getting him that job. "I don't think the portfolio I sent them had any computer work in it," Laita recalls. "But a great art director can assess if a photographer will be right for the job and say, 'These are beautiful photographs, I'm sure he can shoot a computer,' as opposed to, 'I need to see a computer.' "
"It's true, neither of us had ever worked with Mark before," Alinsangan adds, "So we basically handed a complete stranger the biggest job Chiat was going to do for Apple in ages. His work inspired that much confidence."
Laita, who is represented by Robin Dictenberg in New York, is originally from Chicago, where he studied engineering and biology before earning a degree in commercial photography from Columbia College. "I have nothing against college, but I just went for my parents. I always knew I wanted to be a photographer." He started out assisting at a catalog studio, but he soon left for California to expand his career. Seventeen years later, Laita still lives in Los Angeles, where he has a studio, but he attributes his success to his work in New York. "All I ever wanted was to shoot Coca-Cola, IBM and Estee Lauder, and for a still life photographer in L.A., that just wasn't going to happen," he says. "So in 1994 I got a New York phone number and a New York rep. The work just snowballed from there."
With his stripped-down style, Laita moves seamlessly between the natural and the mechanical. "For me, it's all the same, whether it's a rock or a leaf or a computer. I think you just try to bring out the shape and make the product as beautiful as it can be." Laita's work for Apple, Shimano and Mini has appeared in industry annuals and has won several Kelly Awards.
For Laita's career, the best promotional tool might just be his dedication and hard work. "When I was 38, I asked myself what would happen if I gave everything to my photography. So, I tried that and started getting more of the work I wanted and I was happier on many different levels. And it's no big secret-everybody knows the more you put into something the more you get out of it. When I did that, everything sort of clicked for me. And the work hasn't let up since."