MICHAEL NORTHRUP


Hi Michael, tell us something about you

Before graduating from Ohio University for my BFA in 1970, I wrote to six famous photographers to see if I could do an apprenticeship during my last term. I wrote Wynn Bullock, Ansel Adams, Minor White, Jack Welpott, Brett Weston, and Paul Caponigro.
All gave a nice response but it was Jack who said come on out to Calif and see what happens. Through Jack I got to know and assist Judy Dater, his wife at the time. I was offered an opportunity to assist Immogene Cunningham (close friend of Judy Dater) and to assist Ansel Adams (good friend to Jack) but turned them down out of fear of being “overly influenced”.

In your opinion, what makes your photography unique?

I think it’s the spirit, i.e. the heart, that makes our work “unique”.
The more you speak from “your" heart the more unique your work will be. On the other side of that, influence is very important and there are many insights to be learned from other work. Eventually there comes a time when you cut loose of those influences and make your own path.

WHAT ARE YOUR SOURCES OF INSPIRATION?

I’m inspired by my every day life. My work is almost autobiographical in some respects. Bottom line is I love “irony”, what I call humorous tragedy, and try to show that in much of my work. I don’t go to exotic lands or look for exotic people to make images or focus on one aspect of work to produce a series. It’s a day to day curiousity for what’s around me.

What’s your favorite lighting? And colors?

Early on I was fascinated with “Flash Light”, i.e. bringing light where there is none. It started with Lewis Hine and the flash powder he would sometimes use and how that altered a scene. Then Weegee’s images of crime scenes at night also pulled me in to flash. Harold Edgerton was also an influence. Even underwater flash photo fascinated me. And finally Diane Arbus illustrated how flash alters the intensity of a portrait. Other contemporaries during the 80’s were playing with flash and that gave me the green light to push some boundaries. As for colors... I love them all.

What are your favorite or most recurrent subject and props?

For me whenever I see a landscape it looks like a stage waiting for something to happen. I love interjecting the theatre of the human psyche somehow. Props are mostly incidental.

Upcoming projects?

Two books. One on my ex wife and one on animals I’ve photographed over the years. My ex wife was my muse for 10 years and there’s a whole body of work that focuses on her.