10 minutes with Michael Clinard

Interviews with Photographers October 7, 2011 8:05 am

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

A lot of these stories seem to start with a camera coming into one’s possession at 15, but back in those days, I was a high school sophomore bangin’ out pretty wicked Bic pen depictions of a wolf morphing into lightning bolts within the margins of my algebra book. I started out drawing and painting and got a scholarship to a private art college based on my portfolio. Some months in, I became rather disillusioned with art-school kids chucking red and black streaks onto unprimed canvases not five minutes before class, talking about how it represented chaos or the world’s pain. 
I changed my major shortly thereafter and took up photography — wet lab and darkroom printing in b/w and color, non-silver processes, large-format view cameras — the whole shebang. I found the medium to be a pretty good vehicle to explore concepts and that which I found to be aesthetically pleasing.

 

Michael Clinard

Michael Clinard

Michael Clinard

 

Describe your style and what inspires you?

I shoot well-lit, conceptual portrait work in a heroic, narrative-tableau style. In between these more highly-produced shoots, I have a quirky reportage style that’s a little more candid that acts as a visual diary which supplements my hand-written idea journals and sketchbooks.
I’m inspired by art history and theory and absolutely devoured it back in my younger days. I find that a lot of those studies seeped into the inner nooks and crannies of my being, and it now manifests itself in various ways throughout my work. 
I love Goya and Delacroix, dig Dutch painting, respect what Duchamp represented, and think late 60s/early 70s conceptual art was the best thing to happen since sliced bread. I really get inspired by artists like Tim Hawkinson, Tom Friedman, Mark Tansey, and Dexter Dalwood. Colloquialism, metonymy, accidence and parapraxis really get my creative juices flowing, too.

 

Michael Clinard

Michael Clinard

 

What surprises you most about your occupation, good and bad?

Good:
In truth, I still get pretty surprised when someone gets in touch and asks me to lend my visual style to one of their projects. Really it’s kind of a trip to think that all this “stuff” I’m doing/shooting/conceptualizing is in fact my occupation. It’s an incredible stroke of luck to have fallen into a particular station that allows me to be creative while at the same time interpreting a topic for a viewer through the lens of my camera.
Bad: 
Hmmm … I don’t know if it’s “bad” per se, but the notion that some forms of photography only take five minutes to pre-light, set-up, shoot, etc. — I’d kill for a physicist, an engineer and some location photographer to spend a weekend with the gents from the Starship Enterprise to make a “beam-me-up-to-the-17th-floor-with-my-magliner-and-all-my-gear-Scotty” machine. 

 

Michael Clinard

Michael Clinard

Michael Clinard

 

How can an editor be most helpful when giving you an assignment?

I ask a fair amount of questions from jump to determine someone’s expectations and end goal with the project. I guess if someone tells me straight up what he/she is thinking, then that’s the most helpful. Are they particularly worried about something with the project or is there something challenging to navigate: time/location/hard-to-illustrate-concept? Is there a synopsis or brief floating around that I might take a gander at? Is there a particular image from my website that you’re using as reference, so I can gauge the exact scope and level of production I’ll be putting toward the image(s)? Oh, and when do you need this by … tomorrow or a week from now?

 

Michael Clinard

Michael Clinard

 

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself advice, what would it be?

Ten years ago, I felt as though I were in this race against other folks to do things faster, quicker, and bigger. It was several years later that I realized I was racing no one but myself. I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I’d just taken a year or two off back then to fumble around and work at a record store or Domino’s Pizza or something. Instead, I chose the purgatory which is graduate school, so it took me a little longer to realize what I wanted to pursue. If I could tell my 22 year-old self anything back then, it’d be to go get lost for like a year or two.

 

(Michael is based in Seattle. See more of his work here.)

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