Mack Knox is Conquering Personal Obstacles to Manifest Creative Dreams

Mack Knox is a full-time digital photographer and storyteller, from Tampa, Florida. Their deep affinity for music cultivated their passion for photography.
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Meet Mack Knox, a full-time digital photographer and storyteller, proudly born and raised in the vibrant heart of Tampa, Florida. Mack’s photographic odyssey commenced with the gift of a DSLR during their teenage years. A self-professed “tumblr kid” in those days, they dabbled in snapping shots of friends and soaking in the energy of live concerts. It was their deep affinity for music that would unfurl their latent passion for photography. Interestingly, Mack initially aspired to tread the path of an animation artist, but that aspiration met an untimely demise as their creative heart yearned for more. Photography stepped in as the rescuer, filling that void that had formed. Reflecting on this transition, Mack reveals, “[That] dream fell through early on and photography really filled that void in me. As I started to become an adult and had to navigate life myself, nothing fulfilled me besides taking photos.”

Yet, becoming a photographer was no smooth sail, as Mack had to confront their anxieties head-on in the process of working directly with people. Battling crippling anxiety and unrelenting panic attacks, they found themselves grappling with social anxiety, which, as they point out, is no small feat for someone whose job entails constant interaction. “I struggled heavily with anxiety and panic attacks, which made me also deal with a ton of social anxiety, which is the WORST for someone who has to talk to people to do their job.” 

In a remarkable turn of events, Mack’s journey led to 7 years of behind-the-lens experience, a trajectory they partly credit to the unwavering support of their artist network within the Bay area. “I put all that struggle into my art and eventually started pushing myself to meet more people in the Tampa creative community.” Through numerous collaborations and personal projects, they carved out a distinct style that’s often hailed as “colorful, glowing, and full of emotion” by those who encounter their work.

In our candid conversation, we delve deeper into how the Tampa art scene became a sanctuary for Mack, aiding them in conquering their anxious demons. We explore the symphonic connection between music, Mack’s life, and their boundless creativity. As 2023 unfurls its canvas, Mack Knox aspires to keep evolving, fine-tuning their skills, and chasing new horizons, all while nurturing the flames of creativity that light their path.

How did you get your start in concert photography? Are there any particular music artists or music genres that you enjoy working with or prefer to shoot?

MK: So the reason I even got into concert photography was because I was a huge band, not band like in school, but like going to concerts and stuff at a young age. And I always saw the photographers in the photo pit and I was jealous they were up there and yeah, that’s what really pushed me to do that.

Music is such a big part of my life and where I get almost all of my creativity and concepts from, and so I’m very wide with my genres. But it typically is a lot more indie rock alternative music, for sure.

Mack Knox has had the privilege of shooting bands like Conan Gray, Underoath, and SpiritBox, but it’s Isdunes that holds a special place in their heart. “There was something about the energy in that venue during their performance that felt so welcoming and fun. The band seemed super happy, the fans knew all the words, and Anthony Green, the lead singer, engaged with the crowd, even jumping on the barricade to sing along. It was an amazing experience with a killer music act. I’d love to tour with them someday!”

Mack’s creative process for photoshoots is as dynamic as the music they capture. It all starts with finding inspiration, often through music or music videos. They then create a mood board on Pinterest, curating ideas that align with their concept. When needed, Mack collaborates with models, stylists, and makeup artists, inviting their creative input to shape the shoot’s vision.

How do you collaborate with models, stylists, and other creative professionals during your shoots? Do you allow them to give feedback to your ideas?

MK: Even if they are my own creative concepts at first, I usually like to collab with the other people who are part of the project – which is the model and the stylist, or even the makeup artist. I put all of us into a group chat so we can all talk about the general idea that I have, and then I will ask everyone to join in on a Pinterest board, just to add in anything that they would like. I’m really open to everyone having their own creative freedom. I put all my trust into the people that I work with because I choose to work with them for a reason. So yeah, I’m really big into collabing, and I think, in the end, it’s very important not doing everything yourself and actually getting help from the other people that are part of the project.

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on so far and why? Feel free to give the top 3 if it’s hard to narrow it down..

MK: I think my all time favorite was a project I did last year called, “Vampires Will Never Hurt You.” I’ve always really been into horror and into this band called My Chemical Romance. So this was one of those projects where I had a favorite song and I would look at the lyrics and make my own storyline out of it. And that’s basically what I did. I got my friend Danni, who is a stylist, to help me style and plan the shoot. Then, I got 2 models in Tampa that I’ve shot with before that I felt fit my whole concept. It was just one of those projects where I dedicated so much time into planning it and then when we did it, it came out exactly how I wanted it to. And I’m really, really proud of that project.

While anxiety and panic attacks have posed ongoing challenges for Mack, they’ve developed strategies to manage them over time. Some days remain tough, but they’ve become more attuned to their mental health, learning how to navigate it while working. “Anxiety is still a significant hurdle for me. I have to take it day by day. Some days, I might need to reschedule because my mental health isn’t up to it. I hope my clients understand. I’ve become better at coping and handling it to fulfill my job, but it definitely held me back in the beginning.”

In addition to anxiety, Mack faces the competitive nature of the creative field, coupled with moments of self-doubt. Transforming these challenges into artistic fuel, Mack found the motivation to connect with more creative minds in their community. Through this engagement, they’ve experienced growth as an artist, nourished by Tampa’s warm creative embrace. The city’s artistic collective has opened doors for collaborations, enabling Mack to refine their skills and expand their horizons.

"Music is such a big part of my life and where I get almost all of my creativity and concepts from."

“I wouldn’t be where I am without this community, for sure. I truly love Tampa and the creatives here.”​

Other than anxiety, what are some of the biggest challenges you face as a photographer and how do you overcome them?

MK: I think being in the creative field, there’s a lot of things that creatives can get stuck with, and it can be frustrating you know, even now. So in these first six to seven years, I still feel like I see other creatives that are maybe farther in their career than I am, or I feel that way, you know, because of my anxiety or just being harsh on myself. But then I have to remind myself, like everyone has their own ways, you know? I’m going to get there my way, regardless.

I think mostly my biggest struggle when it comes to my career is anxiety. Just because I’ve always been an introvert. For example, I don’t shoot weddings – I just make sure I keep within my niche, which is creative portraits and concerts, because I know that’s where I feel most comfortable.

Can you share your experience working with the Tampa creative community and how it has impacted your growth as an artist?

MK: Yeah, honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the Tampa community because this community welcomed me in the beginning when I knew no one. And they purely looked at my art and supported me. I really want to say it was about four or five years ago when I saw [a model] that I was close with in Tampa say something like, “Hey, we need a photographer for this project. If anyone is interested, please let me know.” And I just was like, You know what? I think they look really cool. I’m just going to send them a message and let them know that I’m interested. It worked out and I went and shot. I met like ten people that day in the Tampa community who are all creatives. Ever since then, I’ve been making friends and making connections. Everyone I’ve met, everyone I’ve worked with, has been amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am without this community, for sure. I truly love Tampa and the creatives here.

Mack Knox, like countless other creatives, envisions success as the realization of turning their artistic fervor into a sustainable livelihood, offering the freedom to support themselves while doing what they love. Beyond financial autonomy, their aspirations include embarking on a journey as a touring concert photographer and realizing collaborations with revered artists such as My Chemical Romance and Halsey. “My Chemical Romance ignited my passion for the music industry and shaped my unique style. Their influence on my work has been profound as I’ve evolved as an artist.”

In the upcoming year, Mack Knox is poised to delve deeper into cinematography, venturing into music video creation, and intensifying their involvement in the queer community. Additionally, they’re eagerly anticipating more opportunities to capture the essence of live concerts and vibrant festivals.

Mack Knox’s narrative is one of resilience and determination, a talented photographer who’s conquered personal obstacles to manifest their creative dreams. Embracing collaboration and valuing mental well-being within the creative realm, Mack stands as a cherished member of Tampa’s creative tapestry, persistently evolving and advancing in their photographic craft.

I have to make this art because I know no one else can create what I can for the world.’ I don’t remember where I heard this quote but it’s been pushing me for years within my journey as a photographer to get where I’m at today.”

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