When did you become a photographer?
Michael: I've been shooting since 2006 when I got my first Rebel XTi, but it wasn't until 2008 that I started taking it seriously and upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark 2, that was when I realized all of my additional income would go straight towards photography gear.
What inspires you to create?
A little bit of everything. I love watching movies with great cinematography, they have such attention to every part of the frame, it's sometimes so subtle you don't even realize what all they're doing until you rewatch. I also love going on hikes and just getting unplugged for a while. I believe that Sunday's are for Exploring. Finally, I'd say I just have a deep desire to try and create something new and unique. I'd rather experiment than play it safe.
What’s in your gear bag?
Canon 5D Mark IV and Sigma 35mm Art are my newest additions. I'm also one of those weird film shooters and two cameras I shoot a lot are my Contax 645 and my beloved Widelux F7.
Do you have a favorite lens/camera?
Definitely the Widelux F7 currently, it shoots film panoramics with a rotating turret, there's only 3 shutter speeds and 5 apertures. There's no focus and if you hold it wrong you'll get your fingers in the frame. I absolutely love everything about this camera, it seems to capture everything and has this sense of authenticity about it.
What’s your favorite type of food?
I love a good burger with an egg on it, but my absolute favorite food item is the Peanut Butter Pie at a local Memphis restaurant, Hog and Hominy. It's the one item I recommend to everyone, and so far, everyone's loved it just as much.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I like to hike on the weekends, since I have a full time office job at the moment. Also during the winters you'll find me at as many Memphis Grizzlies games as possible.
How do you like your coffee?
I'm a relatively new coffee drinker, always been a fan of the smells whenever someone near me makes it. I like it best when it's in a good mug. If your mug game isn't strong, don't even bother.
What’s your favorite movie?
Rocky is such a great series. It never fails to make you feel like you can accomplish anything and I'm excited to see where the franchise goes now with Creed, I thought it carried the torch perfectly and doesn't feel tacked on unnecessarily. Rocky IV may be the best simply since Rocky manages to end the Cold War by withstanding the onslaught of Ivan Drago.
Where are you from?
Memphis, TN born and raised. It's a city with a signature soul to it. I've been to bigger cities, I've been to better cities, but I'll never have another home like the 901. This place has a way of embedding itself into your DNA and really defines the artists that come from here.
Do you have a defining moment in your career?
Back in 2011, I was looking for work and sort of at a standstill with photography, I had an idea to take black and white portraits of interesting people from Memphis on a white seamless background. I managed to get a studio set up downtown in this great building, and the first week I managed to get 7 portraits taken over 4 days. But every person I shot that week sent me referrals and friends. I edited each photo session that night and had them posted on social media the following day. After 3 additional weeks I had shot almost 150 portraits of musicians, photographers, entrepreneurs and even the Mayor. My site I built to go alongside the project was being seen by everyone. I ended up getting a job doing Marketing for LensRentals.com a few months later because of it.
Tell us about your vision, what’s your style of photography?
My style would be raw and authentic. The goal of my photography is to capture a moment, something that makes you want to look at it twice. I want to evoke a reaction when you look at one of my photos.
When you’re in a creative rut, how do you get unstuck?
Keep shooting! Sometimes the best photos come from experimenting after your first, second, third, and fourth ideas all failed miserably. I managed to do a 365 project in 2014 that really pushed me to shoot consistently and to be able to create in whatever situation I was given. It takes a lot of pressure off of you, if you just accept that you have to take a photo in a situation, you just have to capture what you can. Sometimes it's absolutely unexpected what you'll end up with, sometimes you'll fail. But if you're going to fail, you might as well fail miserably!
How much of a photograph do you pre-plan and how much editing do you do after? I'm not much of a pre-planner for most photographs, once I get to a location I try to look at it and whatever the most obvious shot is, I try to do something completely different. I do pre-plan roadtrips and scout potential locations as best as I can, and my editing is minimal. For the last 3 years I've shot about 95% film, and I love the aesthetic so I didn't want to mess with it much. I chose that medium because I loved the way it looked and the way it made me feel.
Balance is important, how do you balance photography and your personal life?
Luckily I have an amazing girlfriend who's also a photographer, and most of my close friends are photographers as well. It's sort of an obsession that I have to surround myself with creatives. As much fun as I have being a photographer, it's always good to know when to leave the camera at home and just go enjoy yourself.
What’s your best piece of advice for another photographer?
Don't be afraid to fail. Keep shooting and taking photos, the only way to get thru a creative rut is to just keeping working, and you'll shoot your way out of it before you know it.
Who influences you?
Dan Winters is absolutely amazing and I love everything he does. Annie Liebowitz is fantastic, I love it when she shoots simply with one light and some film, I think that's my favorite work of hers. Helmut Newton was fantastic at pushing boundaries while still focusing on the art.
What would you tell someone who’s wondering if they should come to Over Yonder?
Over Yonder is an opportunity for you to grow as a photographer both creatively and professionally. I'm going to be speaking about building your brand because I think it's important. The other speakers are all AMAZING photographers and I'm so pysched to watch their process, see them shoot, watch them edit and just talk to them about their creative process. I know that by the end of the trip, I will be a better photographer, and so will everyone who attends.