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Cinematic Photography by Michael McCluskey Inspired by Personal Experiences
Michael McCluskey is a 34-year-old American photographer. He grew up in Michigan rural area, and for 15 years worked as a musician. Music, and fascination with Michigan’s lake, where he likes to spend time, play a big role in Michael’s life. This way, the artist finds peace and a space for his own thoughts. Michael is one of those persons for whom the artistic expression and creativity are a vital life force. When the former musician felt a certain need for a fresh way of artistic expression, he has chosen a new medium – photography – and started to explore its creative potential.
The photos are confirmation of photographer’s originality and astonishing artfulness. Picturing ordinary, even banal objects, such as the old houses, cars, and furniture, Michael reveals a big potential of mundane scenes. The photographer likes challenges. He shoots at night and experiments with dark and light. The objects and sources of light create mystical, sometimes even surreal ambient that evokes disparate emotions.
The photographer likes to spend time watching movies and listening to music, but most of all he enjoys exploring new places and objects – and preparing the scene setting for his next photography projects! MINUS37 had a chance to hear about the artist’s life, work and future plans from the first hand.
Tell us a little bit about your life
I grew up in a conservative, Christian household in West Olive, MI which is a rural area on the west side of the state and I currently live in Grand Rapids, MI. I visit Northwest Michigan at least once a month and hope to own a house or cottage there someday. I attended seven different schools between 1st grade and senior year and have enrolled and dropped out of college three times. I currently work three part-time jobs outside of working as a professional photographer.
What is your artistic background, when and how did you start? Was photography always present?
My experience with photography started about four years ago when I attended photography 101 at Grand Rapids Community College. I had been a musician for over 15 years prior to that but had decided to take a hiatus from making music. I guess I felt like my music had become too formulaic and kind of stale. So my decision to explore photography was in part because I needed some kind of creative project to work on now that I wasn’t making music and also my interest in movies. I get depressed when I have too much time to think so I try to have a project to work on at all times. When I started photography 101 I thought of photography as possibly being a stepping stone to one day making films. Which I still want to do but photography has become a lot more than that to me since then.
How did you end up with the style you currently work in?
My first exposure to the type of photography that I’m interested in was through a feature-based Instagram account that’s curated by Valérie Timmermans. I guess I would describe most of the content in her gallery as a documentarian with a subtle narrative. That was the first time I saw photographs that really interested me. Other than that my style is inspired by; my personal experiences and how I feel about them, movies and music. I love stories in pretty much all forms.
How do you usually work, and where do you draw inspiration from?
How I work depends on what I’m trying to do and where I am. It has changed and continues to change as time progresses. I finished a series a couple of months ago titled, “Mourning and Evening”. Over a period of about three months, I spent a lot of time walking, listening to music and taking pictures in an attempt to express or rid myself of the overwhelming heartbreak I was feeling at the time. It was very therapeutic and beneficial for me. I had no intention of creating a series while I was making these images. And I didn’t know why I was drawn to the subject matter and light that I was capturing but after having some time and space away from it I started to see more meaning and began to recognize themes. This ended up changing the way I now understand and approach my personal work. I used to try to have a solid concept or plan in advance to starting to take pictures. However, I do still try to set myself up for success. For example, choosing an appropriate time of day to shoot for the desired light quality and also working in a location where there is an interesting subject matter. I think of it like going to the grocery store and buying a bunch of good ingredients without a specific dish or recipe in mind. In the end, I try to let the moment decide what the end product will be. I don’t want to force anything. I think in order to be in the moment you have to be able to let go a little bit. Sort of like entering a meditative state.
I think of it like going to the grocery store and buying a bunch of good ingredients without a specific dish or recipe in mind. In the end, I try to let the moment decide what the end product will be.
I ALWAYS listen to music when shooting. No matter what. Usually some kind of atmospheric music. I also try to stay off my phone and I normally work alone. I want to get totally lost in the moment.
What do you hope your work achieves or invokes?
I want to tell stories that move and challenge people. Not necessarily my story but my perspective on our story. I particularly enjoy ones with darker themes. They tend to more closely reflect both my experiences and outlook.
How do you feel about being a young photographer in a modern society?
There’s currently a lot of discussion between artists about social media’s effect on art and authenticity. Which undoubtedly exists. When scrolling through popular content it isn’t hard to see trends. Which isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. Art is a conversation and who’s to say that it can’t be a conversation between artists. But at what point is a work no longer adding to the conversation and maybe compromised by focusing too much on getting “likes” and engagement? It’s really easy to get wrapped up in all of it and right now I think that things are a little out of balance. However, if you can find a way to navigate the weirdness, social media platforms can be a great place to find an audience.