“MY NAME IS MICHAEL. I TOOK A PHOTO CLASS IN HIGH SCHOOL. I DID NOT OWN A CAMERA. I FAILED THE CLASS.”
This is how photographer Michael Lopez starts off his bio. It makes me sad that he failed his high school photo class just because he didn’t own a camera. Clearly it wasn’t his lack of creativity.
Fortunately, Mike found some great mentors to make sure his second attempt at photography wasn’t a failure.
D&B: Where are you from?
ML: I am from Bakersfield, California. Originally born in Pasadena, CA and moved here when I was 12.
D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started – any formal training?
ML: I shoot commercial, editorial, and . I have no formal training. I am a “try it and see what happens” kind of guy. I read a lot of books. Watch tons of DVD’s and just try to experiment with what I have.
D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
ML: I am a Nikon user. I used to be Canon until one day all of my equipment was stolen. So I switched just to see. I like Nikon’s ease of use on the camera. I also shoot with my Mamiya rz67. I love film.
D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
ML: I was blessed to have some great mentors. Matt Beard, was assisting on a shoot that I was Art Directing. We hit it off and I was telling him that I liked shooting photography. He invited me down to Los Angeles and I started assisting him. He opened my mind up to using strobes with natural light and knowing what to expose for in the frame.
Daniel Jordan was another mentor that was just a huge blessing for me. He was a photographer in LA in the 80’s and 90’s and one day I asked to see his book. He opens it up and man what do I see? Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album – he shot that for Death Row Records and tons of other work. He helped me learn how to invade space and use just one light.
Monte Wilson another friend of mine, showed me how to use natural light to get the best possible exposure. I have just been blessed to have such talented photographers help me. So I also give back to anyone who wants to learn.
D&B: Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a photographer of color?
ML: Yes. It is really hard to break into the commercial world. You have to work twice as hard to get one step ahead. But, I just keep working hard and I just know one day it will pay off.
D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography?
ML: The day I quit my job. I just went out and did it. Still working hard everyday… I have my moments when I want to quit and give it all up, but I have come to far to stop now. I must keep going.
D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
ML: I hope that I am able to use it to bring some awareness to people. To make them think. Hopefully I can achieve that doing projects that inspire people to make change. I am currently working on a project called Project Bookface.
I have been working on this project for the last 5 months and I am almost done with it. I decided that I was going to photograph my friends on Facebook. Photograph just their face. Then have a gallery showing of all the faces and allow them to buy their face back.
All of the proceeds would go to a local foundation that helps at risk you stay out of gang violence. I ended up with about 130 people that let me shoot them and the response has been great. It has brought awareness to the foundation and it has also allowed me to meet more people. The gallery showing will be in
D&B: What’s your dream photography project?
ML: I would love to photograph President Obama. Just give me 5 minutes so I can create a masterpiece. That’s all I need.
D&B: What’s the biggest (life) lesson you’ve learned through photography?
ML: Photography has helped me see the world differently. It has given me an ability to speak for those who do not have a voice. I just love it… I love light and people and photography brings those things together for me.
Previous photographer interviews:
Neil John Smith (South Africa)
Manjari Sharma (India/USA)
George Pitts (NYC)
Neelakshi Vidyalankara (London, UK)
María Fernanda Hubeaut (Argentina)
Elia Alba (NYC)
Jaime Permuth (Guatemala)
William Vazquez (NYC/Puerto Rico)
SUBSCRIBE via Email
Get updates on new photographer interviews plus news on contests, art shows and informed commentary on what’s happening with diversity in photography. Subscribe to Dodge & Burn Photography Blog: Diversity in Photography by Email
Follow me on Twitter @mestrich for more on photography