In this week’s Meet Our Tutors, we caught up with Mark Aitken, who teaches on three of our courses – Ideas for Successful Scriptwriting, Ideas for Successful Photography, and Film and Fine Art.

Mark Aitken

What are you most passionate about?

I’m fascinated about developing ideas – where they come from and the alchemy that keeps them fresh. It took me a long time to appreciate that new ideas really orginate in an ether that we all have access to. I don’t subscribe to the idea of the ‘creative genius’. We all have potential to inspire and create. With a little support we can go a long way.

How did you come to work in film?

I began with photography and was drawn to telling stories with sequences. This led me to adding sound and before I knew it, I was making films. I’m still interested in the tensions and play between sound, words and images and the emotional affects they have on the viewer.

John – 2017, from ‘Sanctum Ephemeral’

Can you tell us more about your work?

My recent project ‘Sanctum Ephemeral’ engaged residents on a blighted housing estate to produce a series of intimate photo portraits inside people’s homes. The work is now installed permanently on exterior walls. The project also produced a free newspaper, a book and was featured in five group shows and local press and national press. The clear and powerful affirmation of people’s lives in these pictures is the result of a specific working dynamic between myself and subject. Although I don’t practice participatory art, my work is the result of collaborative processes whereby I respond to input from the subject.

My goal to is establish an emotional truth throughout production of the work. This truth serves as a catalyst for meaning derived by the audience. My practice has evolved along these lines for over ten years. Lens based art is mostly situated within a false non-fiction/fiction dichotomy and I see emotional truth as essential to artistic integrity.

Another thread running through my work is that of subverting stigma associated with marginal groups. This is rooted in my background as an immigrant twice over as well as the early influence of Diane Arbus. My practice has been largely based in documentary moving image, although I began with photography and fiction film. I increasingly want to blur boundaries between mediums and associated tropes in keeping with what I see as an ongoing digital destabilisation of recorded image and sound.

I started teaching and making films in 1990. Since then I’ve worked in fiction, advertising, documentary and lectured at Goldsmiths University on short drama production for 11 years.

My award winning work has been exhibited and broadcast nationally and internationally. ‘Sanctum Ephemeral’ won the National Open Art photo award and a place in ‘Portrait of Britain’ with a 20m national audience. My recent film ‘Dead when I got here’ won many awards and is currently being submitted as part of my PhD thesis at Goldsmiths University – ‘Emotional Truth in Documentary’.

Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you think everyone should see and why?

‘Red on Maroon’ – by Mark Rothko. This was the first painting I saw in an art gallery and it blew me away. I had to sit down and stare at it. I didn’t know anything about it and didn’t know why it was so powerful. It just was and still is. It’s makes me feel a certain way and that’s enough.

Phylis – 2017, from ‘Sanctum Ephemeral’

Name a favourite book, film and song that you would recommend.

‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ by Adam Hochchild. A history book that reads like a thriller about the people who exposed the atrocities of Belgium’s King Leopold in the Congo.

‘Spirit of the Beehive’ by Victor Erice. A near perfect film that allows time to make your own meaning through a child’s eyes.

‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ – Charlie Mingus.

What/where is your favourite London discovery?

I’m a swimmer so I’d say Tooting Bec Lido.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

Confidence is essential to keep working and working gives you confidence.

‘Sanctum Ephemeral’ Installation shot at Cressingham Gardens

To find out more about Mark you can visit his website here, follow him on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or browse his manifesto and scriptwriting learning resource.


Join Mark this August on his Ideas for Successful Scriptwriting short course. Feeling inspired? View all upcoming Summer School short courses or our full short course schedule!