Suburban Classic Magazine
by Brooke Perry
“Kids force me to shoot more spontaneously, take more risks, camera angles from up high or floor level, knee level even, to capture these little ballerinas and soccer stars as they dance and prance. It’s actually more wild and exciting taking pictures of kids than it ever was taking shots of models who just did whatever I asked.”
Mac Hartshorn has come a long way from the days when he served as his school’s yearbook photographer because “no one else would do it.” These days, he is one of the tri-state area’s most sought-after portrait photographers – a gifted professional whose high-fashion background and intuitive editorial style create a “less is more” philosophy that resonates in every shot.
A former commodities broker who happily gave up his Miami desk job to assist his photographer brother, Ted, on fashion shoots, Hartshorn never looked back. “I liken my career decisions to ‘floating on a breeze,’” he says. “I don’t agonize over decisions.”
“Compared to my brother, whose daily whirl consisted of fashion shoots, beautiful girls, travel and more beautiful girls, mine was a mighty mundane life. The stark truth is I wanted Ted’s life.”
Hartshorn quickly established himself in the world of high-fashion photography and was embraced by top designers, fashion magazines and catalogs. A photo shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine led him to Jennifer Goodin, a young photographer’s assistant from England who is now his wife. “She had just arrived in Miami from travels that had taken her half way around the world,” recalls Hartshorn. “She’d left the white cliffs of England to crew on a yacht through the Caribbean and South America, then finally after some wild adventures around the Panama Canal where she as held up by gun-toting bandits, she stepped off the boat in LA where she nannied for a wealthy business man and his wife and young son.”
Following two weddings – “a secret one 12 years ago and another two years later in a historic church in England, complete with top hats, tails and masses of wildflowers” – Jennifer and Mac settled in Hoboken. On “move day,” Jennifer discovered she was pregnant and, as she moved through the trimesters, Mac began to photograph her pregnancy. Later, friends who saw the shots asked him to photograph them, too. “This was just a few years after Demi Moore’s infamous nude pregnant cover shot for Vanity Fair by Annie Leibovitz,” said Hartshorn. “Pregnant bellies were a fashion statement.”
Once their baby girl was born, Mac took photographs of his daughter Madeline and soon all of their friends were clamoring for shots of their newborns, too. His desire to spend more time with his young family after the birth of their second daughter, Cameron, led him to establish a studio portrait business in Hoboken.
To his surprise, Hartshorn found that he really enjoyed this sort of photography. With the demand for his portrait work increasing, he backed off from his fashion work to concentrate fully on the airy sun-filled studio in the Monroe Arts Centre, where gleaming, golden hardwood floors, high ceilings and large industrial windows captured essence of his style. “I put my own stamp on the genre by bringing the high-end style of fashion shoots to the intimate feel of family portraits,” he says. He attributes his success to a “fresh set of eyes not bogged down with knowledge of a traditional portrait studio. Making my own rules and breaking them constantly works for me and my clients.” He recounts with a grin, “I like to be spontaneous; each family or child is unique so each shoot is completely unique to them.” This allows me to “capture the family relationship in all its intimacy and honesty. I believe that really great shots are unexpected and undirected.”
“Kids force me to shoot more spontaneously, take more risks, camera angles from up high or floor level, knee level even to capture these little ballerinas and soccer stars as they dance and prance. It’s actually more wild and exciting taking pictures of kids than it ever was taking shots of models who just did whatever I asked.” he says.
Mac’s decision to photograph with natural light in the studio and his editorial style set him apart. Over the years, his client list has grown and spread throughout New Jersey and New York, with clients returning year after year for magical holiday shoots or to record important family milestones. Over the years, cherished friendships have blossomed as these clients return year after year.
Summer finds the Hartshorn family weekending at the Jersey Shore, with Jennifer and the girls based in Bay Head while Mac shoots clients at sunrise and sunset. Possibly Mac’s favorite location, “these beach images transcend as the moods of sky and ocean provide an ever-changing backdrop filled with liquid golden light or wreathed in soft dreamy mists.”
He feels the work he does now evokes an important emotional response from his clients that will last forever and may be treasured by generations to come. “When mom and dad break down in tears I know I’ve hit it.”