Meet

Michael Northrup

Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I’m from Marietta, OH/ San Anselm, CA/ Boston, MA/ Chicago, IL/ Charlottesville, VA/ Shepherdstown, WV/ and now living in Baltimore, MD.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Minor White, Les Krims, Frederick Sommer, Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Witkin, Weegee, Bresson, Brassai, Bellocq, Walker Evans, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Emmet Gowin, Paul Outerbridge, and Robert Adams to name a few. All of them were influential with me.

Hill Fire

Your photographs offer a colorful, often humorous, view of daily life in America. To what degree are the moments you capture staged and/or spontaneous?
More often they’re spontaneous and if staged I merely say, “stand over there” or “hold still.” Rarely are they conceptualized and if they are, it’s done in haste.
Are there specific life experiences that you try to narrate or convey through your works?
If I do, it’s almost completely subconscious. I’m more interested in the “spirit” within the work. I think my upbringing shows in every image. There is definitely some kind of narrative running through each image but it’s nothing literal… more felt. I’m more reactionist than conceptualist.
Slant
In 1980 I was just finishing my MFA at the Chicago Art Institute and as color processing became much more available just then, many of us dove in head first. I tried incorporating colored jells over the flash and for the next 15 years I focused on and expanded that technique. — Michael Northrup
How has your artistic style changed over the years?
I started in school by using a view camera while most students were using a 35mm. Putting a camera on a tripod alone has a profound effect on the outcome and slowed me way down, which over time became a problem. I needed to speed up my growth and find out how photography was going to fit my life. Then post undergrad I purchased a medium format camera and began relying on “the instant” and my gut. I was frustrated with working with available light and loved some of the images I saw from those I studied in the histories and contemporaries, who used flash when needed. I loved that light, the circle of light when using a wide angle lens, and that things seemed to “come out of darkness” along with stark drop shadows that were characteristic of the light. I played with its properties, throwing things in the air to suspend them, working in dark environments, and mixing it with daylight.

In 1980 I was just finishing my MFA at the Chicago Art Institute and as color processing became much more available just then, many of us dove in head first. I tried incorporating colored jells over the flash and for the next 15 years I focused on and expanded that technique. By the late 90’s I found conceptualizing and processing so laborious that I nearly stopped working. But when the digital cameras came out I embraced that and once again went back to shooting from my heart and gut and still love working with the flash. That’s where I am today.

What is something people would be surprised to discover about you?
That I haven’t read a book since the ’70s and that I’m obsessed with flying large scale RC airplanes.

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