What is so brilliant about Michael’s work is the detail that goes into each piece he creates. Using tools that are simple as torches and light sticks, Michael creates ‘light art’; a technique that involves very long exposures, and a whole lot of patience. For each photograph, Michael often plans his idea and how he will construct the piece. Using different coloured lights, torches, glow sticks, a tripod, and of course, a camera; he begins to ‘paint’ his image. What results is an array of light streaks that form together to create a ‘light painting’. Below, we chat to Michael about how he begun his career as a photographer, and how he developed his style.
Hi there Michael how are you?
I’m very well. Thanks for asking.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
Not sure where to start. Professionally, I’m a light artist and photographer. I also write articles for various media predominantly in the world of photography. In my spare time, I hit the coast, or cook vegetarian meals. I was born in Wales, UK, and it is currently where I reside.
When were you ‘photographically born’?
My photographic roots are hard to pin down. I have always loved photography. I guess it picked up pace when I lived in Scotland when I was photographing the back streets of Glasgow, and street photography in general. My love for landscapes was born from when I lived on a Kibbutz in Israel. Geographically, it’s a stunning country, and my camera was never too far behind me.
Do you come from a creative background?
Academically, no, but I have, in my opinion always had a creative gene. Ever since I could pick up a pencil, I have always painted or sketched. In Scotland, I dabbled with installations and turning my hand to creating extraordinary things out of the ordinary. Back then, I had this habit of taking domestic appliances and electrical goods, and paint weird and wonderful designs on them.
Did you have an interest in light photography or was it something you developed along the way?
Light Painting for me was a complete accident that happened in the summer of 2004 when I was in Greece. I was photographing a night scape, and during the shot I kicked my tripod accidentally. The shot was ruined, but the moon in the scene caused a streak across the image. I was fascinated by this streak. I then unclipped the camera from the tripod and used the moon as a source of light to draw something, while I manoeuvred the camera by hand on long exposure. After that moment of self-discovery, I turned my hand to using torches.
In terms of developing your own style, which is so important as a photographer, at what point in your career did you think to yourself, ‘this is it!’ As your light photography is very recognisable…
From the absolute beginning, I was captivated by what I produced. My light art roots began with a couple of torches, and since then, the process has been completely organic and ever evolving. I never think ‘this is it’. I always think to myself how much I love what I do. The love is important; it keeps me going.
Do you plan your photographs and is there always a reason behind every photo?
Very often I plan my work. In the early days there was a lot of trail and error, but I soon learned the importance of a planned project. There is always a reason why I do a piece of work, both personally and commercially. The work has to have reason and purpose, and often, the work has to connect to the environment.
On an average shoot, what are some tools you use to create the light streaks?
I have a few specialist tools to do specific jobs, but primarily my light gear consists of very basic torches. Essentially, if it illuminates, I’ll try it. Some lights stay with me, and some get broken down and made into something else.
What is one image of your collection you are most proud of and why?
I am proud of all of them. I do have a handful of favourites, and some of them are not even my best work. I did have one major moment of overwhelming excitement once when I created a blue tree in the snow. I had spent a long time trying to create it, and after quite a few months, it all clicked into place.
What are a few of the responses you’ve had from people about your photographs?
I would have to plough through a lot of quotes. The overall responses have been phenomenal. I am extremely humbled by the years of support I have had from people who follow my work.
If you didn’t create light photography, do you think you would’ve been interested in another style?
I would definitely stick with photography. I love travel. I love landscapes. My eye never stops looking at compositions and situations. The camera hardly leaves my side, day or night.
If you could summarise your entire collection of work in under a sentence, what would it say?
My work is a reflection of my dedication, passion, love, life, sweat, tears, anger and laughter.
Question from one of our photographers who we have interviewed, Matt Spilsbury: What is one experience in your life or a moment you’ve had that has inspired you to keep on photographing?
It’s a good question, but there’s never been one experience. There have been too many life-events that have propelled me ever forward.
If you had one chance to speak through a P.A system that everyone in the entire world would hear, what would you say?
On a clear night switch off your street lights car lights and house lights. Then look directly upwards for the most amazing light display you’ll ever see.
What would you like to ask the next photographer that will be interviewed?
If you only had the chance to take one last photograph, what would your subject matter be?