Photography March 21, 2016
by Lauren Festa
It’s Photography Month here on the ADC Blog, a chance to showcase the shutterbugs within the ADC community, sharing both their work and their stories. Photographers aren’t the biggest segment of creatives amongst ADC Members, but their passion more than makes up for their numbers. Whether they’re veterans with a Hasselblad making a living or newcomers with an iPhone who love to shoot on the side, if they’re here, they can make it anywhere.
Not everyone featured during Photography Month began as a photographer. Our next featured ADC Member is actually ADC Staff, acting as Social Media Manager, with experience he’s garnered from his previous social post working for Miss Universe. But there’s more depth here: Michael loves film and some of his best work and our favorite pieces show off his photography chops, shining in a light all their own.
How old were you when you became interested in photography? How did you come about it and how did you foster it?
I remember receiving an instant camera for Christmas when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. Obviously, I didn’t understand the art form or technique of photography at that age. I think I just took pictures of my cat and Pokémon cards. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 when I got my hands on a video camera did I really explore visual storytelling.
Do you remember the first photo you ever took? Tell us about it! And how have things evolved since?
Hm, I don’t remember the first photo I’ve ever taken, but I do remember playing with a lot of instant cameras, like Polaroid and Instax that printed little wallet-sized photos that used to be really popular in the late nineties. I think it’s interesting to reflect on that because I grew up when technology in photography started to become a commodity on a consumer level. I saw the changes from film to digital cameras. I remember being a kid and playing around with instant film and then definitely abusing my family’s digital camera to get the perfect MySpace profile pic during my teen angst years. That was around the same time I purchased my first DSLR and began to take photography seriously. In college, I focused on digital by pursuing some commercial photography on the side, but I also started developing my own film and prints using darkrooms, different cameras and formats. It’s interesting to see how I grew up with film being the norm, watching it fade away, only to end up using it as my primary medium as an adult.
What type of photography would you say is your speciality and how did it come to be so?
I would say it’s a mix of documentary and conceptual. I live in my head a lot, so when I shoot, I try to find a way to warp the world I’m in and create an organic movement. I don’t think I really have a specialty. I think I float around to different styles and ideas, and try to work towards and identity that fits a particular concept, whether it’s an elaborate narrative shoot or a simple weekend trip.
Define your photographic style in 5 words or less.
Eclectic, organic, vibrant and kitsch.
What is your favorite camera to shoot with? Any other must have tools?
I love my Canon AE1. It shoots 35MM film.
Why do you choose to use film? It’s feels sort of luxuriously-impractical, like wearing satin stilettos in the rain…
Every time I visit my parents’ house, I always look through old photo albums and boxes filled with prints. I feel like nowadays we are so accustomed to using our iPhones or Androids for Instagram and Snapchat (which I do constantly, follow me on @mike_mytnick #ShamelessPlug). But when I want to actually look back at my life and the great experiences I’ve had, I want to see it in print and from the perspective of my lens. Printing digital photos is fun and might even have better pixel quality and contrast than some 35MM prints, but I like to think about film as actually looking through my memories. When I remember certain things about past events I can recall specific details better than others, and when I see it in print, I can remember the moment almost exactly as it was. I think that has something to do with not seeing the photo until you develop it. It becomes like a little time capsule. Until we can pull the memories piece by piece from our heads, I like seeing a sort of abstract reality through using film.
Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud? What makes it so gratifying?
As far as professional projects go, I was really happy to work on a promo sponsor shoot with the contestants of Miss USA 2014 and OPTX Eyewear. It was every part campy and fun, challenging to do and gratifying to see it being used in the official campaigns. I’m really proud of a lot of the personal projects I’ve worked on too. One of my favorite side projects in college was physically manipulating and double-exposing the film I was using to create textures over the people I was shooting. That was a lot of fun. Another favorite features the ADC’s Sarah Shanks, posing in a decrepit Appalachian farmhouse.
What would be your dream client/project/collaboration?
To work with musicians! I’m most inspired by music. I would love to be the person creating a visual identity for a musician or band. I know they are out there somewhere, I just haven’t found them yet. (If you are my musical soul mate, please contact me).
Nowadays everyone has ‘camera’s in their pockets and apps like VSCO and Instagram make everyone a lighting expert, #filter. How has this changed the photography game? Has it changed the way you see or take photos?
I think it’s cool that people are becoming more visually aware and picking up on basic composition and aesthetic. I think it’s just another tool in the mix for people to use. I definitely rely on its convenience a lot. Especially when I’m in situations where I don’t want to lug my camera around. It makes me appreciate shooting film more thought. Using an iPhone versus a film camera is like night and day, so I almost treat them like separate realms.
What’s the strangest question you’ve received when someone learns you are a photographer?
“Can you teach me how to use my camera?” ….No 🙂
What are your other creative outlets and sources of inspiration?
I am a filmmaker and went to school for video production, so I try to work on side projects as much as possible. I also do improv and have been learning how to make electronic music at The Foxgrove! I am mainly inspired by music and travel.
Fill in the blank: “When I’m not shooting, I am______________”
Eating, consuming media, at comedy shows, exploring.
What photographers do you look up to? What is it about these people that you love so much?
When all is said and done, what is it about being a photographer that gets you up in the morning and drives your passion?
Being able to creatively collect an ongoing archive of my experiences.
For anyone starting out in pursuing photography as a career, what would you say to them?
Play around with as many mediums and ideas as possible. Work on as many projects as you can, even if they aren’t groundbreaking ideas.
Lastly, how has being an ADC Member and part of the Staff helped your personal creative aspirations?
I get to be surrounded and connected with so many like-minded talented creatives and that is really exciting!