Interview with Michael McCluskey
Q: Hi Michael, welcome to Pellicola! Tell us something about your life and yourself.
I grew up in the Midwest, United States. I like to collect old furniture, art, and light fixtures, and then photograph them. I want to eventually own a cottage in northern Michigan, and I plan to furnish it with the pieces I’ve collected.
Q: Tell us about how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures?
I spent fifteen years working on music, but eventually felt my music became stagnant. I decided to take a break from it, which gave me time to start exploring photography as a new creative medium. As I learned the craft and process of photography, I realized what had happened with my music; I had become distant from it. Photography has allowed me to relearn how to trust my artistic instincts and feel my work. I may potentially revisit music in the future, but only when I feel ready to.
Q: The main subjects of your pictures are houses and cars. I’ve noticed a growing interest in photography for these subjects lately, why so?
One of the reasons is that you don’t have to be a big time photographer to have access to shooting the exterior of houses and cars. Access is a big thing with photography. When you’re on a budget, you have to learn how to photograph what’s available to you in an interesting way. I don’t want to generalize too much, but in my experience, most artists tend to be introverted. I find that I have a hard time getting into a good creative space when there are too many people around. For me, right now anyway, cars, houses, furniture, etc. are easier to work with. And in the right light, they can all look amazing.
Q: Are your shots connected in some way with your life? For instance, why do you mostly shoot at night?
There are a lot of different reasons I shoot at night, one being that I enjoy the challenge it offers. The light that’s available at night can be difficult to work with, but when done correctly, it can produce magical results. Also, I have time and flexibility in my schedule to do it, since I work for myself.
Q: You are a curator and founder of Witness, what is that?
Before I moved to Grand Rapids, MI, I lived in Lansing, MI. While there, I worked as a bar tender and hosted a music club there every Monday night. Each week, a different producer (mostly local) would prepare a mix combining their own music and other’s music to share with the group. It was mostly an excuse to nerd out. I met a lot of interesting people that impacted me both as a human and as an artist. Witness is a community-based Instagram account I created that is similar to that, but for photography. It has only been active for about three months now, but has already been a lot of fun to organize and be a part of.
Q: Getting to the point, you showcase what inspires you. How has to be a picture to inspire you?
I like escapism. When I experience someone’s art I want to be transported into the universe that they’ve created. A lot of an artist’s voice lies in the details of what they make and the way those details work together. I am inspired when an artist’s voice is strongly present in their work, and it motivates me to continue to grow as an artist and develop my voice.
Q: Talking about inspiration, what keeps you inspired?
I find inspiration in scenes that capture my attention. I will see subject matter that looks like the setting for an interesting story, and I feel I want to capture it. So I have to stop and take a picture. When I know I’m onto something good I get excited to share it with others. It feels really good to make a connection with other people through your work.
Q: What do you do when you are not taking pictures? How do you spend your free time?
I go through phases of watching a lot of movies and listening to a lot of music. I also like exploring, but that kind of goes along with taking pictures. I really like trout fishing. There’s a beautiful river about 45 minutes north of where I live. I go there to clear my head.
Q: If you could meet a great photographer of the past, who would he or she be?
I’m going to cheat here and meet a bunch of great movie directors instead; Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’ve been rolling some ideas around for a couple of different series that would incorporate more human presence and also more nature, but they are both in the early stages. I’m not ready to talk about them too much yet.
Q: Suggest us a film or an album.
I’m going to cheat again here and suggest three films and three Albums.
The first is a classic directed by John Carpenter, “The Thing”. Definitely one of the coolest movies ever made. The second is the original version of “The Vanishing” (1988) directed by George Sluizer. Be careful because it’s terrifying. And for my last pick I’m going to recommend something more current and not quite yet a classic, but a movie that surprisingly seems to get overlooked. “El Aura” directed by Fabian Bielinsky. A modern take on noir about a taxidermist who suffers from epilepsy and hallucinations and becomes obsessed with committing the perfect crime.
“Inspiration Information” – by Shuggie Otis
“Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” – by Penderecki & Greenwood
“Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks” – By Brian Eno