A few months ago I came across UK photographer Marcia Michael‘s series of black and white portraits titled “Study of Kin” on FotoVisura. I was touched by her desire yet failure to find historical images of Black folk by Black photographers throughout the British national archives.
Michael’s investigation into early photographic representation of the “other” reminded me of a 2008 Dodge & Burn post on “ethnic photography”. As a Black woman behind the lens, informed by the intimacy of Julia Margaret Cameron’s portraits while using scientific methods of image making, Marcia Michael is reclaiming and reshaping the historical role of Black people throughout photography history.
D&B: Where are you from?
MM: I am from Islington in London UK, Born and Bred.
|Young Woman [Self Portrait] from the “Study of Kin” series, Copyright Marcia Michael|
D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started – any “formal” training?
MM: My images are all constructed pieces. I shoot mainly people but am trained in the ‘fine art’ of photography. I have studied at Derby University, Bournemouth and Poole college of art and design and London College of Communication (formally London college of Printing)
What cameras or techniques do you use?
I use a Rolleiflex TLR and I use straight photography, no tricks. I recently used digital and enjoyed (for a limited time) deleting the images that were not quite right.
For the project The Study of Kin, I had to learn different historical techniques to make images. I had to test the technique to see which would have the best platform to explain my work had. I used photo gravure, photo etching, wet plate collodion, albumen printing and becquel daguerreotype.
D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
MM: Avedon for his precision.
John Blakemore for his printing.
Irving Penn and Edward Weston for their simple style and structure.
I love fashion too, especially Steven Meisel.
|Portrait of a Young Girl from the series “The Study of Kin”, Copyright Marcia Michael|
D&B: Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a woman and/or photographer of color? (this question is optional)
MM: Everything takes longer.
D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer.
MM: To be very honest, its when I realized that photography is all I wanted to do, then there was no other option.
D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
MM: To reveal new or lost information with beauty. For some reason, I find it very important that the pictures I make be beautiful to look at, or what I should say is that it stirs you in a certain way to give a reaction.
|Portrait of a Woman with Scarf from the series “The Study of Kin”, Copyright Marcia Michael|
D&B: What’s your dream photography project?
MM: Photographing all my family members in one place. I realised how hard to was/is to get them to be in one place. I have tried but it never happened.
D&B: What’s the biggest (life) lesson you’ve learned through photography?
MM: When you make a mistake , just sort it out, there is no point crying over spilt milk, just mop it up.
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