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People photographer Michael Wilson on storytelling through photography

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A picture speaks a thousand words, and Michael Wilson narrates stories using photography. He captures unique moments and converts them into eloquent images. Highlighting from loggers to wind turbine workers or a family adventure, Michael comes up with sincere and real life shots.

Starting as a photo assistant to celebrity and documentary photographer Martin Schoeller in New York City, Michael has now been involved in photography for 15 years. He’s based in Maine but often travels to capture people who are making positive impact on the earth. Keep reading to learn more!

Production Paradise: Your first job was as an assistant to celebrity and documentary photographer Martin Schoeller, in New York City. What did you learn from this experience?

Michael Wilson: I learn almost everything I know from him.  He taught me how to keep my cool on set in front of subjects and clients no matter what may go wrong. Beyond the technical lighting skills, communication with a subject, and tremendous amount of preparation work that goes into a shoot, he really taught me to always keep shooting, ALL the time. No one is going to hire a photographer that doesn’t take pictures.

Production Paradise: After this first experience, specialising in people and lifestyle was a logical path for you?

Michael Wilson: It was, I always knew I wanted to photograph people. After leaving Martin’s studio I originally set out to do work that was less equipment-driven. My first project was a six-month hike of the Appalachian Trail with my partner, Kit and my camera. I just wanted to shoot a project without anything, just a camera. The lifestyle end of things developed from constantly spending time with friends and family, typically in outdoor settings, and realising that the everyday aspects of life were super interesting to me.

Production Paradise: Where did this idea of “story” came from?

Michael Wilson: I’ve always thought that photography is a great medium for storytelling.  I think the static nature of photography creates an almost boiled down documentary film, leaving you with just the important moments. I also think it can help a viewer connect with people in a story as you are sort of forced to spend time looking at them face to face in photographs.

Production Paradise: “Woodsmen” is one of your series. Tell us more about this story that highlight the loggers’ work.

Michael Wilson: The Woodsmen series was born out of my fascination and obsession with the forest and the relationship humans have with it. Living in Maine, I’d read countless articles about the downsizing of the logging/paper industry in Maine, but most of the articles focused on the industry, job numbers, and factory closing but not necessarily the people who were losing jobs or doing the work. My goal was to give people a tiny glimpse into the world of logging by helping them connect with some of the people doing that work.

 

Production Paradise: You said once about the Woodsmen story that you “felt like that really brought everything full circle”. Can you tell us more?

Michael Wilson: This was a reference to a promotion piece that was created with the work. I had a 16-page tabloid-sized newspaper printed with images from the story that told a bit of a short story about logging. As it turned out the paper used in the promo was sourced, in part, from Maine timber. The full circle reference is that some of loggers’ portraits in the promotion could very well be printed on paper that was manufactured with wood that they themselves harvested.

Production Paradise: Based in Maine, most of your work is around New England. Do you plan to travel abroad to capture some portraits and lifestyle series from other culture?

Michael Wilson: I would be beyond delight to travel and explore of photo stories abroad. I traveled extensively with Martin Scholler and miss it tremendously. Traveling, and talking with people is one of the greatest ways to keep from developing a narrow-minded perspective on our world.

Production Paradise: You manage to give to each of your story honesty and real life moments. Are you currently working on another project?

Michael Wilson: That’s kind of you to say, especially because I strive for this but always question if that comes across or not? At the moment I have mere concepts that need to flesh out. I have one project that developed as a byproduct of the Woodsmen story that I think has a ton of potential and relevance to modern times. It’s going to take some time, so maybe this time next year I’ll be ready to share it?

Production Paradise: How useful was Production Paradise for you and your work?

Michael Wilson: It’s hard to say exactly, as I’ve only been on board for a couple of months, but the look, feel, and reach is exactly what I’m looking for as a photographer.

We would like to thank Michael Wilson for taking time to answer our questions, it was a pleasure to look into his body of work! To see more of Michael’s work, go on his website or check his member page on Production Paradise.

If you want to show off your latest work to the industry in the next edition of Production Paradise’s Spotlight or Showcase magazine, contact us now at showcasemagazine@productionparadise.com or spotlightmagazine@productionparadise.com.

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