michael george's photography interview

Travelling brings on a certain state of mind that opens your eyes to details locals wouldn't see - the geometry of a construction site, the humour in a handmade poster or the way a shadow lights up a room. Photographer Michael George grabs this outlook with two eager hands, tuning into the finer points of life while pedaling across the continent, making a pilgrimage in an unknown land or just pottering about his hometown of Brooklyn.

We asked the clever chap a few questions about his snaps.

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What is your name and how old are you? My name is Michael George and I am a ripe 24.

Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in Decatur, Georgia, but I grew up in the coastal town of Fort Myers, Florida. Six years ago I moved to the northeast and discovered winter. Currently I live and work in Brooklyn.

How does where you grew up and where you live now affect your photography? Being from Florida, I think my personality is constantly at odds with New York. Often when everyone is going manic around me I realise just how calm a person I am and that shines through in my images. Having a rested center helps me see the little moments that people are often rushing by.

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What areas, things or people in your neighbourhood do you most like to photograph? Every day I am seeking out portrait subjects. I often tell people my focus is on their beauty and their quirks. When possible I will pair writing with photographs to expand on the stories of others. Other subjects include cats, dogs, and America.

What do you shoot on (digital or analogue) and why do you choose to use that type? If I fell into a pot of gold I would shoot with an 8x10 camera every day of my life. Since I am a victim of both the digital age and student loans that is not a possibility. I shoot nearly everything with my trusty and beautiful 5D Mark III. Over time I have developed an editing technique that satisfies my craving for the tones of film. However, a 35mm camera will never match the optics of large format... and that is a tragedy.

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Is there a certain camera or type of film that you wish you could own? I dream of marrying a Deardorff.

Is there a running theme to the work you create, or do you just make whatever comes to mind? All of my work is a mix of beautiful light, sombre reality, and sarcastic humour. For a long time my work was extremely personal. I would take images from my visual diary and break them down into chapters. Now I am focusing more on projects that will contribute to the important issues facing my generation.

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What kinds of ideas and things are you working on at the moment? In August and September I will be telling stories of modern pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago in southern France and northern Spain. I am interested in how our idea of religion is changing and how people go about connecting with God by following an ancient tradition. A lot of this also has to do with finding religion as a young gay man.

What kind of subjects interest you the most? Anyone with a story who knows how to tell it. Also pretty boys and French bulldogs, let's be honest.

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Do you prefer to create set-up photographs, or just wander the streets until you see a photo? My work is actually an even mix of both and I think they have a symbiotic relationship. On the street I react to subjects that are not under my control and learn what attracts my eye. Those attractions are then translated into direction when working with a subject in the studio.

What are some of the challenges that you are facing in modern times as a photographer? My biggest worry is that I will be pigeonholed and never escape whatever category I am thrown into. I believe if you are a fine art photographer who needs to shoot weddings to produce that work, more power to you–especially if you're talented enough to succeed in both worlds. Unfortunately the people that hire photographers are often quick to place us into categories and leave it at that.

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What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a photo? My series 'From the Left' is full of life's absurdity. Take Philip the Lost Tortoise, for example.

What other budding photographers do you love? My close friend and loving roommate Sasha Arutyunova inspires me daily. If you want to see someone who has somehow turned the iPhone into a painter's canvas for life's most beautiful moments: check out her Instagram.

Also Daniel Seung Lee's images are like taking in a breath of the world's freshest air.

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What do you enjoy doing when not taking photos? I organise an ultimate frisbee game in Prospect Park every weekend. You can also find me trying to improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade, riding the Wonder Wheel on Coney Island, or walking down the street... singing to myself... pretending that I am either on Broadway or Beyoncé.

Where can we see more of your work?
michaelgeorgephoto.com
instagram.com/migeophoto
workprints.tumblr.com

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