Interview: Michael Marcelle

Emily Johnson: Has working with Stephen Shore and Tim Davis had any influence on your work or the way that you work as a photographer?

Michael Marcelle: Working with Stephen and Tim has had a huge influence on my work. Some of my earliest classes at Bard were with Stephen, and he really helped me to understand the creative potential of the technical qualities inherent in photography, like framing, composition, exposure, etc. In my later half at Bard, I took classes with Tim, who eventually became my Senior Adviser. Where Stephen taught me about how to use and control tools of photography, Tim taught me how to use that knowledge to make very personal, unique work. It was a pretty great combination of mentors, who are both totally amazing artists but in surprisingly different ways. I also took classes with John Pilson and An-My Le, who were both very influential to me.

© Michael Marcelle

Emily Johnson: Your brief Untitled series from 2008 really interests me. The repetition of the use of reflective subjects seems pretty dominant, especially the way that it abstracts the landscape or surrounding environment. Is this series a work in progress or something that you'll elaborate on?

Michael Marcelle: The Untitled 2008 project is a conceptual and technical segway between the work I used to make and the work I make now, which I feel are very different from each other. I struggled for the first few years after college, trying to figure out what kind of work to make, where and how to make it. The resulting work and my senior project before it (Total Recall, Wilderness) is a relatively direct approach to photographing the world, with a pretty generalized cohesive theme of being about representations of fantasy & wildlife in the commercial landscape. My latest work, Our Wild Indians, is about the resort & gambling communities of the New Jersey coastline, and though it is actually about a specific place, I think it's much more thematically complicated and vague. The images are more technically complex, with long night exposures, very foggy landscapes, and difficult combinations of light sources. I think the Untitled Project's use of glass & reflection is a precursor to those elements, and I think its vaguely ominous and almost science fiction tone is an early vision of what Our Wild Indians would become.

© Michael Marcelle

Emily Johnson: What inspires you to make a photograph? Is the act of making a photograph something you plan or is it purely a reaction to your surroundings?

Michael Marcelle: The way that I work is combination of planning and luck. As I've gotten older and have continued to work on a place-based project (Our Wild Indians), I've started to plan much more beforehand, as I spend a lot of time at the places I shoot, so I can reshoot an image or get an idea for a future image every time I go. But since my work has become so much about light and weather conditions, my process of shooting is still very much the classic "drive around and look for something."

The balance between creative agency and pure chance is actually a huge part of my process as an artist. Being a photographer who works in a very traditional documentary style, it's very easy to walk around and get caught up shooting things in a direct manner, as they are in the world. My biggest challenge, in order to make the kind of work that I'm interested in and inspired by, is to create images that feel dramatically abstracted and elevated from the real world, so that they feel cinematic totally strange.

© Michael Marcelle

Emily Johnson: Do you prefer to shoot with film or digital media? The color in your photographs references the look of film, and unfortunately I've only seen your work online and in book format. Do you typically show your work on a larger scale or a smaller more intimate scale?

Michael Marcelle: I only shoot film, though the Untitled Project and Total Recall are both digital. It was a period shortly after college, where I was having technical problems with my 4x5, and was also struggling to come up with a project, so I would just take my handheld digital camera with me and shoot everywhere. But I really love film, and I love the process of walking around with a big 4x5, setting up the shot, and really taking my time. I typically show my work pretty large, about 30x40.

© Michael Marcelle

Emily Johnson: What advice do you have to share with an undergraduate concerning pursuing a career as a photographer or becoming a part of the world of fine art photography?

Michael Marcelle: My advice would be this: Keep shooting, and stay positive and confident about your work and what you want to accomplish. Push yourself every time you shoot.

More of Michael's work can be found on his website at: http://michaelmarcelle.com/images/

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