Beyond sight. Celebration.
Michael way photography
“If you don’t feel it, don’t play it.”
- James Jamerson, legendary hit-making bassist for Motown Records. 30 Billboard #1 Hot 100 hits. 70 Billboard #1 R&B hits.
“If you don’t feel it, don’t play it.” Those words have been my mantra for the last fifteen years.
I received my first camera when I was nine years old and have never been that far from one since. Growing up in Southeast Washington, D.C. just a few hours north of my current home of Richmond, Virginia, it was through childhood diversions from the chaos of city living that I first encountered what would become defining visual influences and sources of inspiration. Regular visits to the National Gallery of Art and the works of Claude Monet. Impressionism built a lifelong affinity for art museums and various types of artists, including a special affection for the talents of Japanese water-colorist Kawase Hasui.
Constant trips to the movie theater made fertile soil for the imagination. Favored movies were re-visited an embarrassing number of times, enough times to start taking note of the cinematography and the fundamentals of cinematic composition. I became something of a fanatic about cinematography, often caring more about who shot a movie than who starred in it. The involvement of personal favorites like Dante Spinotti, Roger Deakins, and Emmanuel Lubezki is just as likely to excite me about a film as any famous actor or director.
I also owe a great deal to comic book shops, where a relentless Batman obsession fed an understanding of the built environment as a character in its right with a spirit and an attitude, and the potential for any human figure or character to be rendered as heroic, villainous, noble or common, all at the will of a skillful storyteller.
After obtaining a master’s degree in architecture and working in the residential design and construction field for more than a decade, I decided to commit to exploring my own potential as a visual storyteller. Michael Way Photography is a collection of my explorations.
On seeing. On celebrating.
From 1892 to 1895, Czech composer Antonin Dvorak resided in the United States. While in America, he directed the National Conservatory of Music in America, picked up the stylings of our folk music, and wrote two pieces which would not only become among his most famous works but would also advance what we intuitively understand as the "American" sound in classical music. You can hear the debt to Dvorak in the music of Aaron Copland. You can hear Dvorak in John Williams' soundtrack for "Superman". You can hear traces of him in almost any television or movie soundtrack that needs to set a scene in rustic, everyday America; the kind of nostalgic, romanticized, and noble America that might have been painted by Norman Rockwell. Dvorak “saw” America in ways Americans either did not or had taken for granted. In sharing his sight, he showed us a path to celebration.
In 1928 French “Impressionist” composer Maurice Ravel visited the United States for a four-month tour. His music was extremely well-received, solidifying the allegiance and devotion of American composers like George Gershwin and those Gershwin taught. As one of the only composers to successfully go back-and-forth between artistically bona fide classical composition and the pop sounds of Tin Pan Alley, much of which forms what we now call "The Great American Songbook", the reach of Gershwin, the people who influenced Gershwin, and the people who were influenced by composers like Gershwin cannot be overstated. Sometimes the most resonant and revitalizing renderings of what we call "home" come from outsiders and those who can see with fresh eyes.
Whether it's just the freshness of unfamiliarity or the interplay of candor and romance that comes with a little personal distance, it often seems to be those with the celebratory “tourists’ eye” who make the most interesting and edifying observations about where we are, who we are, who or what we and our spaces want to be, and what we and our environments can be. Such vision reminds the rest of us to celebrate, whether we are familiar or unfamiliar with a subject. I long to celebrate. Every moment, place, and person that will allow it. How about you?
“Cameras and lenses are but mere armatures of photography, as lifeless as they are useless without a competent communicator. nimble Understandings of light, shadow, and composition are among the most important tools of our trade. Even more crucial are the vision and energy to not just see, but celebrate what we see. My goal is to never stop celebrating.”
celebrate what we see
1 JOURNEY. 4 passions.
When it comes to creativity, our limits are whatever we say they are. For the sake of branding, a lot of professionals understandably concentrate their focus on one specialty, but in truth my imagination has always been best fed by creative cross-pollination. I grew up idolizing Renaissance talents like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, and Benjamin Franklin. It’s been my experience that the exploration of multiple disciplines allows one learning and problem-solving process to inform others, often in unforeseeable and exciting ways. Here, you’ll find my studies of 4 distinct photographic genres: architectural, portrait, travel art, and photographic impressionism, a personal style inspired by 19th-Century French painting.