Photography

From an early age, photography is something that I have always been around. I did not realize its impact on me, however, until I was much older. My grandfather had been a commercial photographer, and I can still remember my mother talking about his work when I was growing up. For the majority of his career, Papa worked for Del Ankers Photography in Washington, D.C., where he did commercial work for Washington Gas as well as portraits of members of Congress (one member in particular requested that only my grandfather be the one who took his portraits). Though he retired when I was young, I can still remember the evidence of his occupation all around me - his darkroom at the Lorton house; the black and white photos he would take of us; seeing the handmade Christmas cards he made of my mother and uncle when they were children; and the film camera he gave me when I first started showing an interest in photography. My biggest regret is that I did not begin to take it seriously until after his death, though my grandmother reassures me that he would be proud of me and my work if he were still with us.

As a historian, I often approached photography from a documentary perspective, taking note of the fine details of a subject and examining the framing of my subject and how to best document it. When my interest in photography began to flourish in Philadelphia, this is how I approached my work. A friend and I would often go on walkabouts, where we would meet somewhere with no end destination in mind, just walking around exploring the city and taking photos along the way. We often strayed down alleys and side streets based on something that caught our eye, and our collective work often focused on documenting the abandoned architecture and industrial sides of the city.

When I decided to go back to school for photography, I decided to follow in Papa's footsteps and pursue a degree in commercial photography. This is how I came to study at Appalachian State University. After one semester, however, I realized that it was not for me. One of the first classes I took at App State was Book Arts, and the professor opened my eyes to the fact that it was the tactile nature of making art that I thoroughly enjoyed and was missing. At her urging, I switched my major to Studio Art with a concentration in photography. Without this change, I never would have discovered alternative photographic processes, and most likely would not have ended up at East Carolina University.

The work I have included on my site runs the gamut of my interests. It explores my on-going study of alternative photographic processes, features site-specific photo explorations (Hagley; Pier 18), and showcases thematic bodies of work centered around family, the coronavirus pandemic, and toxic masculinity. This site is ever-evolving, as is my own body of work, so be sure to check back often for updates.

-Michael