It should come as no surprise that Mark Fox has achieved much in his fifty-five years: he was born in Cando, North Dakota, after all. “That was the town motto: ‘You can do better in Cando,’” Fox says. “You just follow that motto.”
A photographer by trade and at heart, Fox may be the most famous journalist in Summit County’s history. He took a job with the Summit Daily News in 1989, and his images were seen, well, everywhere—a trait that served as his trademark during a thirty-four-year career in newspapers, including stops at the Summit Independent Daily and Aspen Times. Ready for a change, the longtime Frisco resident retired from photography’s daily grind in March to try his hand at (why not?) blacksmithing. You can find Fox molding metal at the Dillon Farmers Market every Friday this summer, and read how his views on life were forged right here.
I grew up on a small-grain farm. Wheat and barley. As I got older, there were times when I’d think, “I don’t want to work hard,” but you get a good work ethic instilled in you.
I guess most everyone would want to live in the mountains—the smallness, the community feel, the wide-open spaces, the clean, fresh air—but for whatever reason they can’t do it. I lived in the city for most of the ’80s, and that took care of city life for me. I can’t say that I have ever considered going back.
Soon after [Summit Daily News founder] Jim Pavelich hired me in 1989, I went on an overnight assignment to cover the building of the Colorado Trail. As God is my witness, I thought I threw my camera in the back of [reporter] John Fayhee’s truck. But once I got there, I realized I had not. Talk about a man scrambling to look through things five times. Damn, that was embarrassing. I never did that again.
I know there are a lot of people who live to get 100 days of skiing, but I was never one of those people, as much as I liked it and loved being out there taking pictures.
What makes a good photograph? An old instructor used to call it the “sea” of life: spontaneity, emotion, and action. If you can capture one or all of those in a photograph, you’ve accomplished a lot.
My favorite photo was one I took of a little girl and her dad catching air in their sled at Carter Park. It came together in an instant and was on the front page of the paper in probably ’91 or ’92.
I started in the era of black-and-white negatives, making black-and-white prints. Digital photography scared me, but once I got into it, I didn’t want to go back to film. The convenience, the time saving, not having to mess with chemicals. I think the quality of digital is very adequate.
Being a newspaper photographer was the easiest job I’ve ever done and the hardest job I’ve ever done. I know people think all you do is drive around and take photos, but it’s a lot different from that. You have to gain people’s trust, live up to your own expectations, and try to cover as many events as possible.
I live in a log cabin at the base of Mount Royal that was built in 1950. It’s listed as two bedrooms, but it’s basically been one bedroom for twenty years. After renting it for four years, I bought it in 1997. It’s a big part of my life.
Blacksmithing goes back to my roots as a country boy. I thought it’d be fun to get my hands dirty again. Obviously I’m still pretty fresh at the trade, but one of the keys is being able to visualize and see things: what the metal might do, how it’s going to transform. You heat it, you twist it, you bend it, you pound it—just continue to transform it into the shapes you want it to be. There should be no limit to what you can create.