Irvine Family Portraits Photographer

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

If the course of your professional career was anything like many Americans, the circuitous journey of your career path was an unpredictable odyssey of both tranquility and cliff-hangers. Most likely the vocation that ultimately captured your heart and devoured your time was divergent from your initial notions. So it was with Mark Jordan, Irvine Family Portraits Photographer.

Even though Mark Jordan Photography in Rancho Santa Margarita, the internationally awarding winning family portrait studio, has been photographing families and designing headshots from their South Orange County local since 1996, “Mark Jordan Photography” was actually launched in Irvine, CA – and as far back as 1981!

How did it all begin?

The year was 1979. Mark Jordan Koeff had already completed his student teaching and was finishing-up a longterm substitute position for a combination 4th-5th classroom in San Bernardino. His supervisor called to tell Mark that Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) had just posted openings for teacher positions, and encouraged him to apply.

Though Mark had his heart set on teaching in Encinitas, he also thought it wise to obtain as much interview experience as possible. As it turned out, the Irvine interview he would eventually schedule would be his final stop after attending three others in the span of two days.

Teacher Interview for Irvine Family Portraits PhotographerIt was late June of 1979 when Mark recalls the trio of Irvine interviewers informed him that ISUD had three teaching positions opened. While the openings seemed promising at first light, what Mark did not know, and was to soon to learn, was that his interviewers were laboriously working through over 5,000 applications…

Though the obvious intended effect of being informed of such a crushing disparity was to deflate one’s expectations, and possibly put the interviewee on edge, Mark reported that he felt the opposite, if not more invigorated. With the likelihood of being hired an ostensible impossibility, the rationale for wanting to be liked and any tension from hoping to impress were instantly discharged. Were it not for Mark’s respect for the process and interviewers, he would have put his feet up and lit up a stogie.

Not to mention, after all, Mark had just experienced three interviews within 48 hours and had been offered one position right out. The other two schools had signaled that an offer was forthcoming. In other words, the Irvine interview now seemed more cursory than pressured. Understandably, Mark felt unguarded and unencumbered.

At the conclusion of Mark’s interview he was informed the school for which Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) had openings was a brand new facility, Santiago Hills Elementary School. The school was nearly built and was scheduled to open in just under three months. It was located in a lovely bedroom community of Irvine called Northwood. That the school was new and located in a blossoming, upscale community, appealed to Mark.

Santiago Elementary School, Irvine, CA , Irvine Family Portrait Photographer

Santiago Elementary School, Irvine, CA – Where it all began for Irvine Family Portrait Photographer, Mark Jordan. Though the school’s architecture might appear obsolete today, way back in 1979 it’s unconventional design was state-of-the-art and awe inspiring, especially for a then young and wide-eyed teacher.

Departing from the interview Mark bumped into a professional attired lady standing by a drinking fountain. Her name was Marilyn Boyd – she was the administrator who would eventually become Mark’s first principal.

A polite tête-à-tête ensured, with Marilyn’s brusque nature conceding Mark’s chances of being hired – slim to none. She also pointed out that IUSD’s hires were primarily from within or exclusively from the pool of student teachers who had competed their practicum in Irvine.

Mark’s brief encounter with Marilyn should have concluded after she cited his infinitesimal odds. However, rather than drooping away in defeat, Mark took the opportunity to connect in a more meaningful way.

Mark spoke his mind and talked in depth. Considering the interviewer’s questions did not include a disclosure of Mark’s challenges and the subsequent overcoming , he took it upon himself to weave this integral slice of his life into his conversation.

It was also then that Marilyn learned of Mark being honored by the Executive Director of the State of California Department of Education. He was chosen among several thousand graduates, and granted special permission to craft his own student teaching curriculum. This honor was bestowed upon the one graduate, among all state universities, who exhibited exceptional aptitudes in innovative and effective teaching.

Little did Mark know that Marilyn had already been advised about Mark’s achievements and that she was holding in her hands the very letter of recommendation written by the education department’s director. Mark learned later that his interview was all but perfunctory and his happenstance meeting with his future principal was anything but.

A week later, Mark received a phone call – they want to meet a second time. When he arrived Mark was introduced to two other candidates where they and Mark were offered their respective jobs on the spot.

After lunch, Mark took a drive to visit the construction site of Irvine’s newest elementary school. Having accepted a Second Grade teaching position, he had hoped to get a lay of the land and see where his classroom might be. Though no markers of any sort were to be found, while strolling past the exterior of one classroom Mark said he felt a faint tug to linger.

Pressing his face to the window, Mark cupped his hands on either side of his temples to block the glare from the high noon sun. As he peered into the darkness waiting for his pupils to acclimate, he suddenly sensed an quiet affirmation. It was at that moment he knew he had found his classroom. It had a feeling of being appointed – Mark knew he was where he was supposed to be.

This was in July of 1979. His first teaching position at that very classroom was just two months away. Mark had yet to consider the layout of his classroom, nor portrait photography as a profession, let alone even own a camera.

It was 1981, near the end of Mark’s third year of teaching in Irvine, when he received a phone call from Maui with a wonderful opportunity. His Hawaiian friend owned a flower plantation near the verdant slopes of Haleakala National Park. He and his wife had to leave for a few weeks for Canada and asked Mark if could fly over and watch his farm while they were away.

Considering it had been nearly five years since Mark’s previous vacation (three days in Park City, Utah in 1976), the offer was too good to pass up. Though money was tight (living in one of America’s most desired cities came with a hefty price tag), Mark was determined to make his first visit to the islands a reality.

Kodak Instamatic - Irvine Family Portrait Photographer

In 1981, Mark’s only camera was a Kodak Instamatic.

A day before Mark’s flight, it suddenly dawned on him that the only camera he owned was a Kodak point-and-shoot. Should you remember the Instamatic, you will understand why it simply would not do for a three week adventure in Hawaii.

So Mark took a trip to a local photo-equipment supplier where a salesman persuaded Mark that a new Pentax ME Super was what he needed. He also convinced Mark that a Tokina telephoto zoom lens, along with camera bag and various filters, was also a necessity.

Being short on time to learn about the his new camera, Mark decided there was no better way to read and absorb his user’s manual than on the flight to Hawaii.

It was during these short five hours where Mark was introduced to such commonplace terms as apertures, shutter speeds, depth-of-field and ASA, as well as lesser known functions like reciprocity failure, film characteristics, selective focus, and push pull exposure. Mark says it was the quickest flight on record. He deplaned his United flight with a new found appreciation for the art of photography, and just possibly a new found love of creative expression.

Immediately after landing, Mark’s first stop was to one of the small airport shops to buy film. Even though the owner’s manual advised beginners that negative film was a better choice because of it’s four stop latitude, Mark opted for transparency film. Regardless of it requiring nearly perfect exposures, its superior, rich color was much too tempting for Mark, especially for a color profuse local as Hawaii.

Irvine Family Portraits Equipment of Orange County Photographer Mark Jordan Photogaphy

Irvine Family Portraits Photographer | Mark Jordan’s first camera gear purchased in 1981 a day before departing on his first Hawaiian vacation.

Mark’s primary film of choice was, of course, Kodachrome 25.

Three weeks later and 85 rolls of exposed transparency film in his camera bag, Mark returned home to Irvine. The new school year was about to begin and Mark was anxious to employ his images with classroom instruction.

His first opportunity would be an English unit on Haiku. Mark carefully arranged fifty of his most inspiring images into a slide tray, and showed them to his second grade class.

With the room dark and each slide projected upon the screen, Mark paused to give his students a moment to call out any descriptive word to express how the image made them feel. When the slideshow was over, Mark reminded his class Haiku structure and let the class begin.

No sooner did the sound of pencils fill the room when Mark noticed a parent of one of his students approaching his desk. Tom quickly explained he was there to take home his daughter early. However before he did he wanted to take a quick look at the film strip to see if you could identify the photographer. He shared that he had seen countless photographs of the islands but rarely had he seen Hawaii captured so beautifully.

Before Mark could say a word Tom continued expressing appreciation while highlighting the images that were particularly peleasing. Before Mark confessed to him that it was himself who created the photographs, Mark asked Tom is his keen interest was professional or merely a hobby.

Tom was a bit taken back as he had assumed Mark knew he was an executive with Kodak. After apologizing for his ignorance Mark explained to Tom that a filmstrip did not exist and that the slides were his – they were his first efforts from his first trip to Hawaii with his first camera.

The proceeding narrative is something of which fairytales are made. It strains credulity. Regardless, here it is.

Tom was clearly astonished and persisted in inquiring about Mark’s photographic credentials. Mark was equally persistent that he had none and that he merely did his best to frame his images from perspectives that he had not seen before. In a way it was like when he wrote songs, which utilized the same notes that had been in existence for thousands of years. The art was in arranging them in a way no one heard before.

As the conservation ensued, so did the volume of the classroom. Sensing that their discussion was the causing the kids to lose their focus, Tom asked if they might their talk over dinner at this home that very Friday night. Tom’s only request was that Mark bring all his Hawaii images. He wanted to see what else Mark had and help him winnow his images. Mark agreed, and they set a time for an early dinner followed by image selections.

The Carols also lived in Northwood, just a few blocks from Mark. He arrived early…


…Selma Brackman, owner of FPG (Freelance Photographer’s Guild) in Manhattan, one of the first stock photo agencies in the country.

…That aside, shortly after Mark discovered that his new found love a photography had the makings for professional standards, he began to accept portrait commissions and weddings from local residents. As it turned out, the parent who encouraged Mark was a VIP for Kodak, who was spreading the word about a new talent he had “discovered.”

In fact, the very first wedding Mark accepted was from a Irvine neighbor of the parent, who called Mark and booked him right over the phone. Mark hadn’t a price list or a single wedding sample. Nor had Mark yet to photograph a single wedding. Yet, in his first year owning a camera, Mark photographed a remarkable 19 weddings.

At the time, Mark was living in Irvine and operating his new family portrait studio in Irvine from his small, two bedroom condominium. Clients didn’t seem to mind, as the condo was new, nicely decorated and, after all, it was in Irvine (Woodbridge, to be exact).

Though Mark was producing award winning images right from the start, he was not fully satisfied with his work and studied intently. His daily routine consisted of teaching from 8:00 – 3:30. Seeing clients from 4:30 – 9:00, a later dinner while grading papers, and the more intense testing and research until 3:00 to 4:00.

If this weren’t enough, Mark also began attending weekend seminars in Los Angeles and even enrolled several week long courses held at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. It was here Mark met other extraordinary Photographers (Dean Collins, Joyce Wilson, Lisa Evans, Christopher Der Manuelian, David Peterson, Paul Tumason, Leon Kennamer, et al) and honed his technical photographic skills.

However, before naming his Orange County Family Portraits studio “Mark Jordan Photography, he launched his first fledgling studio as “World Image.” It wasn’t until 1985, after feeling he reached the level of the Master Photographers he admires that did he use his real name, Mark Jordan (his actual full name is Mark Jordan Koeff, but having clients pronounce “Koy’-eff,” let alone remember it, proved problematic…).

It wasn’t long after Mark Jordan Photography was made official before when Mark began advertising his family portraits studio in a small, local paper call “The Irvine World News.”

Mark’s advertisements were simple and understated. They consisted of a family portrait, a phone number and a tag. That was it. His first tagline was “For The Joy Of It.” It was from this first campaign where Mark quickly eclipsed his teach salary and he began to questions how much longer could be balance both occupations.

Interestingly enough, Mark’s first love for creative expression was music – in particular, songwriting. In fact, Mark has written a song entitled “Occupations” at seventeen, which was an homage to the plethora of vocations a person might devote themselves to with not nearly enough time to experience even a small percentage of them all.

Mark would later explain to seasoned photographers who were frustrated with mark metreor rise ….

Mark felt that his work spoke for itself and did not feel any need to explain more. If a client was interested in his work, his phone number was all the information needed to contact him. If not, and the other local photographer (who also advertised in the paper, and who posted weekly photo specials and sittings, all for $25), was deserving of what their aesthetic sense afforded them.

Mark quickly became the leading family portrait photographer in Irvine and was retired from teaching in 1987. Mark explains that is decision to leave teaching came in an instant of the last day of school.

He has just said goodbye to fellow teacher and the principal and was made a single step outside the office door. As the door was swinging back to close, Mark quickly turned and caught the door. Before he could consider otherwise, he leaned and poked his his back into the office. The principal turned as asked he forgot something. Upon which Mark said, “Yes, I forgot to tell you I won’t be coming back next year – I’m retiring to devote myself wholly to my portrait studio.”

As the door closed, Mark never looked back. It was at that moment that everything began to change and accelerate.

Mark had already been contacted by the City of Irvine and was commissioned as the city’s official photographer. His primary gig was creating the city’s Community Service Brochures. It was from one of these sessions where Mark crated the internationally celebrated image “Before I Bow.” His image of a child lost in a sea of adult ballerina’s legs was also honored by Professional Photographers of America with their highest honor, the Load Collection Award, and was donned the cover of the international magazine.


as well as his photo-recreation of Georges Seurat’s La Grande Jatte (i.e. Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) or more typically recognized as A Sunday In the Park.


quickly transforming into clients clamoring for Mark’s family portraits, Mark began Mark then left the teaching profession in 1987 . Irvine Family Portrait Photographer, Orange County Family Portraits by Mark Jordan Photography in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.

Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer by Orange County Family Photographer, Mark Jordan Photography

Orange County Family Portraits, Mark Jordan Photography, has been Coto de Caza’s leading Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer and Headshot Photographer in his Rancho Santa Margarita Photography Studio for family portraits and headshot for business and the arts since 1981.

Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer in Coto de Caza and Profession Studio Photography creates award winning Portrait Photography and Headshot Business Portraits.

Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer, Mark Jordan, has been Coto de Caza’s leading Family Portrait Photographer and Professional Portrait Studio since 1981. Mark Jordan Photography specializes in crafting timeless, simple and meaningful portrait photography of family, children, headshots, high school seniors, couples and maternity.

Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer offers Locations for family portraits range from beach portraits, park portraits, home portraits, and portraits in the city, to studio photography and speciality sites. As a portrait photographer in Coto de Caza, Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer studio serves families and businesses in Southern California, including all of Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego Counties.

Coto de Caza Family Portrait Photographer is owned by Mark Jordan Photography. Mark Jordan is a Master Photographer, an American Society of Photographers member and is one of a handful of artists, worldwide, inducted as a permanent exhibitor into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

More importantly, every award Mark has earned has come directly from portrait commissions. Mark owes his success to his clients – it all began with simple inquiries and continues today because of those who honor him with their trust.

Irvine Family Portraits Photographer and Portrait Studio

Call Irvine Family Portrait Photographer and Portrait Studio today for your complimentary consultation.

Orange County Photographer, Mark Jordan

Mark Jordan
Master Craftsman Photographer
American Society of Photographers
International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum
Orange County Photographer of the Year
3-Time Honoree -EPCOT’S World’s Greatest Photographers Exhibit

When looking for a professional Orange County Family Portraits photographer, or Orange County Headshots Photographer please call 949-888-8071 or complete our online request form.

Irvine Family Portraits Photographer

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