Mark Laita is a popular interviewer and YouTuber.
He has more than 4 million subscribers on his YouTube channel by the name Soft White Underbelly.
Mark is also a photographer.
Mark Laita was born in 1960 and grew up in Detroit and Chicago.
He studied at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Love for photography-
Mark has been a photographer since 14 and as a teenager, he worked on portraits of Chicago’s homeless.
Later, he started working as an advertising photographer.
Mark worked as a photographer for Apple for 12 years and also worked for many reputable brands like IBM, BMW, The Coca-Cola Company, Adidas, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mercedes-Benz, McDonald’s, Budweiser, etc.
While working as an advertising photographer, he did a few photography side projects which helped him maintain his sanity.
Mark has a website showcasing his photographs.
The Created Equal project-
Created Equal is a visual catalogue of America and it took Mark a decade to complete it and cost him half a million dollars.
For this project, he visited the lower 48 states of the United States and photographed people from all walks of life including but not limited to cowboys, astronauts, ballerinas, repo men, Amish people, nuns, homeless drug addicts, etc.
Mark paid the people whom he photographed as he believed that by doing so, the people would readily turn up for being photographed.
At that time, he had a studio in Skid Row in Los Angeles, California and he also did portraits here.
The Created Equal book was published in 2008.
Mark recouped the money spent on this project by doing gallery shows and selling prints.
Love for interviewing-
In 2010, Canon released a video camera and as Mark never shot a video before, he decided to play around with the video camera.
So, he invited Caroline, a heroin addict and prostitute to his studio in Skid Row for interviewing her and testing the video camera.
The interview turned out to be heavy and impactful and so, Mark decided to continue interviewing people, especially vulnerable people.
As he previously met a variety of people for his Created Equal project, he felt that he missed out an opportunity of interviewing and learning more about them.
While Mark started interviewing people, the advertising industry underwent a major change, thanks to digital technology.
Prior to the advent of digital camera technology, he was able to earn handsomely as an advertising photographer but thanks to the accessible digital technology, many people became photographers and started competing with him and this undermined his ability to charge heavily.
At that point of time, Mark also started losing interest in advertising photography and started feeling it more of a chore rather than a creative process.
Adding insult to injury, at that time, the economy plummeted and he also got divorced.
So, after working as an advertising photographer for decades, Mark quit.
Influenced by Richard Branson-
Mark got influenced by Richard Branson’s advice on career choices, which includes making a list of one’s strengths and likes and weaknesses and dislikes.
And this list helps one to find the right career.
So, Mark started identifying his passions and strengths.
He realised that he is into psychology and finds people and their stories extremely interesting.
Also, Mark’s strengths and passions are photography and interviewing people.
So, after a couple of months after quitting his job, he resumed photographing and interviewing interesting people.
Mark was also happy that this would bring a greater change in the world than his previous job of working as an advertising photographer.
Thanks to working as an advertising photographer, he has substantial savings which he uses for his project of interviewing people.
Currently, Mark has three studios dedicated to this project.
Soft White Underbelly-
On 25 April 2016, Mark started his YouTube channel by the name Soft White Underbelly and started publishing interview videos onto it.
The idea for naming his channel Soft White Underbelly came from Winston Churchill calling Italy a “Soft underbelly” of Europe during World War II. Soft underbelly refers to the most vulnerable part.
As Mark publishes the interviews of vulnerable people on his channel, he named it Soft White Underbelly.
He was also influenced by the original name of Blue Öyster Cult which was Soft White Underbelly.
As of January 2023, Mark has 4.28M subscribers on his YouTube channel.
He earns from advertisements on his YouTube channel and also receives donations on GoFundMe which gets donated to the needy.
His videos are also available through the Soft White Underbelly website.
Mark collaborated with Peter Santenello, a YouTuber who interviews lesser-known communities.
Even though his main focus is interviewing people, he occasionally does photography gigs.
All for awareness-
Mark’s intention behind interviewing people and sharing their tragic stories is to educate people not to make the same mistakes and not end up becoming disadvantaged.
The stories also help parents to raise their children in a better way.
Mark pays the interviewees money so as to compensate for their time and sharing their story, the interviewees share their story despite knowing that sharing their story in public would make them more vulnerable.
He had interviewed over 5000 people including but not limited to homeless, drug addicts, transgenders, clowns, etc. and he didn’t publish all of those interviews on YouTube as he believes that some of the interviews are too intense to be published on YouTube.
Mark has also been financially helping the vulnerable to become self-sufficient and has helped more than a hundred thousand dollars.
Even though he shares the tragic stories of people, he was well parented and had good relationships.
Mark has two daughters, Alex and Olivia.
- Mark lives near Skid Row, Los Angeles.
- He is non-religious and a fitness freak.
- Mark loves the conversation style of Joe Rogan.
So, how are you inspired by the success story of Mark Laita?
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