Sunday, 5 September 2010

Michael Barolet

Michael Barolet
New York / Washington DC

How does photography fit into your everyday life?

Photography is a huge part of my life.  I carry a camera with me at all times.  Even if I am not physically making photographs, I am looking at photos.  I try to surround myself with it.

Some of your portraits remind of vintage nude portraits - I was thinking of Edwin Bower Hesser for instance - or even paintings from earlier epochs. Have you ever considered these as an inspirational input for your work?

Not really to be honest.  I always found a lot of vintage nudes to be a bit over the top.  As if the model was trying to yell "look at me!!! Im naked!!!"  Many vintage nudes were nudes for the sake of being nudes.  I am just as happy photographing someone with their clothes on as without.  I do however prefer the nude simply because it strips the sitter of anything they can hide behind.  I want the people in my photographs to be one hundred percent themselves.
My biggest influences for my portraits are Emmet Gowin, Sally Mann, Andrea Modica, Edward Weston, and Jock Sturges.

Although you shoot both in colour and black/white, your preference seems to be the last one. Is there a specific reason for this?

Yes and No.  When I started shooting with the 8x10" camera I couldn't afford color sheet film that size.  It was about fifty or sixty dollars for ten sheets.  Then you had to have it processed, which cost about six dollars a sheet.  For that reason I shot black and white and processed it myself.  I do believe though that color can distract the viewer from the photograph.  If you have to much going on in a photo, the viewer can get lost.
I have been shooting a series in color on medium format over the last few years which I show sometimes.  But I am waiting to finish the project before I show it as a whole.  Also, I shot a bit of 8x10" color this summer which I will be showing soon.

When choosing location(s) for a shoot, how do you go about deciding?

I don't.  I currently live in a fairly secluded area in the suburbs of Washington DC.  Most of the area surrounding me is (or was) farmland and woodland with lots of rivers and quarries.  When my friends and models come out to shoot, I just ask them what they want to do.  If they want to swim, we go to a quarry or river.  If they want to hike or explore, we go in the woods.
I actually shoot very little when doing a "shoot".  Most of the time is spent hanging out and spending time with each other.   If I see a potential photo, I have whoever is in the photo freeze and I set up and make an exposure. 

In your series "Finding solitude" one gets the impression of wandering quietly through nature oneself, as opposed to seeing portrayals of models doing so. In this way I felt the pictures were integrating the viewer into its vision to some degree and thus have an inclusive character - was this something you had set out to do?

That series was a fairly difficult project for me to work on.  The project started out as me returning to and photographing areas where I had spent time with my recently deceased brother.  After a while I found myself wandering away from the areas I had come to photograph and that I was taking photos of other areas.  Soon, I ended up going out to shoot every afternoon right before sundown during the summer months.  It was at this time that the humidity was especially thick and the sun would create soft rays through the trees. 
I want the viewer to feel the solitude that I felt while making these photos.  I can only hope that I succeeded.

Nature seems to play a big part in your work. Wherein lies your interest here?

I was raised with nature around me.  It has a big impact on my work and my life.  I always figured that because its already here, I might as well use it to my advantage. 

If you were to radically break with your present body of work and try something completely new and different - what would that be?

I am getting ready to do just that.  In the coming winter months I will be working on a new series of studio photographs.  I will still be shooting on the 8x10" and it will be in black and white, but it will be like nothing I have ever done before, and like nothing anyone else has done before. I really hope to turn some heads with this project.  I have been planning it out for some time now.  Keep an eye on my website and I hope to have a small sampling of the work up by the end of winter.

Do you think that artists need 'sabbatical breaks' for inspirational regeneration?

I do.  It is easy to get overwhelmed if you do something day in and day out for too long.  I don't however, think that you should stop your craft all together.  That's why I like to switch things up and have several different projects going at one time.  If I get tired of one thing, I just work on something else.  I find that by doing this, I am less likely to get lazy or give up on a project all together. 
I still would like to return to my "Finding Solitude" series.  I worked on it for three summers in a row and I needed a break from it.  I do plan picking up where I left off at some point though.

In retrospect, people like to appoint cities as the capitals of certain art periods. If you could choose one city or region for the present days and art, which one would it be?

I believe that the current art capital as well as the cultural capital of the world is New York City.  It's a central hub for so much in the art world. Because of this, I think it sees more different types of art then any other city.  This is of course, my personal opinion.

In you opinion, is photography storytelling to some degree?

I do believe photography can tell a story.  Several photographers whose work I have enjoyed over the years do a great job at telling stories with their photos.  Francesca Woodman, Duane Michals, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard all created work that was funny, satirical and haunting.  I highly recommend all three photographers.

Where do you see yourself in, let's say, 15 years, and where would you like to be?

I must be honest and say I don't know where I will be.  I do know that 15 years ago, the last thing I ever thought I would be was a photographer. 
I can only hope that people will enjoy looking at my work and that I can influence others.  I would like to publish and show my work more widely between now and then.  But if I concentrate too much on what will happen 15 years from now, that would mean that i'm not concentrating on what is going on in my life now.

Body Aesthetics. Take a look at his work!

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