Derek Jensen

Mark Gowen

Derek Jensen
Mark Gowen

On any given day you may find Mark capturing the hidden beauty of Des Moines or drinking coffee.

Describe who you were as a kid.

I would say that I am very much different than I was as a kid. As a kid, I was very outgoing and not at all the extrovert/introvert that I am today! I was definitely still a dreamer though. I think from early on, I had high hopes for my life and saw myself doing something great.

What's keeping you busy?

Well, I am still working a full-time job as a Renewable Energy Consultant for an Iowa Solar company, but aside from that I oversee the Creative Department at my church, and whenever I am not involved in those capacities, I am on the streets of Downtown Des Moines taking photos.

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing?

I have had an entrepreneurial mindset for as long as I can remember. Sure I have had several businesses fail before they even took off, but I think that is where the learning is done.  With my photography, I'm just pursuing a passion and it just so happens that my passion has evolved into a business. I can honestly say that even if the business fails, I'll never lose my passion for taking great photos. That's what I love the most about this whole process.

Talk to us about the biggest fear you’ve had recently.

I think that a fear that I have had recently is that my work wouldn't inspire anyone.  I think that is one of the biggest driving forces that I have in every of my life. I want to create something that inspires someone else to start pursuing their passions in life.

Talk to us about one problem you’ve been focused on solving and why.

I want to be different. I want to stand out. So I strive to find the hidden beauty of what Des Moines is.  I have been trying to find a different perspective of this city that not everyone gets to see.  I think it's important to find yourself in the passions that you pursue.

"I want to be different. I want to stand out. So I strive to find the hidden beauty of what Des Moines is."

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what’s your advice?

Don't give up. Don't be negative. If it is something that God has for your future, take faith in that. A lot of people tend to discourage others when they try to go out and do something on their own. I don't really understand why, but they do. I don't know if it's just the standard conception that we are supposed to go to college, get a job, buy a house, get married etc. or if it's their own hang-ups they have about their own lives, but I would just say keep at it. Everyday.

Why Des Moines?

I was born here. This is MY city.  Most of my adult life I searched for ways to get out of Iowa. Only over the last few years have I really embraced Des Moines and I have recently been able to see the beauty that we have right here.

"Don't give up. Don't be negative."

What’s one new thing in DSM that caught your eye?

The culture. DSM has really evolved over the last 5-10 years in that we have really embraced change.  This city looks completely different than it did years ago and I think that's amazing.

If you could grant the Des Moines area one wish what would it be and why?

Humility. As we grow I wish that we keep our values and that we stay humble.

Someone just moved to DSM. What do they need to do first and why?

You have to experience the Farmers Market! I think this really goes back to our culture. There are some amazing people that are extremely talented and the Farmers Market is one of the best ways to find those hidden gems.

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why?

Our COFFEE!!! I love coffee, and we have been blessed with some extremely great coffee shops! Horizon Line Coffee, DSM Brew, St. Kilda, and Freedom Blend Coffee are some of my favorites and I would definitely encourage people to check them out.

What is your favorite item or product you bought locally in DSM? Why should someone else buy it?

Farmer's Bootleg Salsa. If anyone knows me, I should probably be a paid advertiser! Haha, I kid. But seriously it's the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. Probably the best salsa I have ever tried!

"This city looks completely different than it did years ago and I think that's amazing."

What are you most proud of and why?

Becoming a United States Marine.  I joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, and I don't know that I am more proud of any other accomplishment than earning the title of Marine.

In three months what do you hope to accomplish?

I would hope to have my work featured in a magazine. I think my photography will continue to evolve, but I see shooting some sort of fashion would definitely fit in my wheelhouse.

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about?

God. I am so thankful that I am able to have a personal relationship with Jesus and I hope that everyone is able to discover their purpose through Christ. 

And my girlfriend Meg. She would kill me if I didn't mention her at least once. But in all seriousness, she is amazing. She has constantly challenged me and made me want to be a better man.