Michael Crouser

Michael Crouser


acoustic guitar plays softly (Michael Crouser) I had been told by a photographer friend of mine that he saw me in my photographs, regardless of the subject, whether they were portraits, landscapes, bullfighting, dogs, whatever. I didn’t know what he was talking about, I really didn’t. He said, Well look at these pictures in front of you, what do you see? I don’t know, he sort of challenged me to explain and describe the aesthetic qualities of these prints. They all sort of contained a darkness, a quietness, an intensity, a bit of humor, some formality to their structure. And he said, These pictures are you, these are a reflection of yourself, do you see that? And I started to see that. I make photographs that make me feel happy and that make me feel like I’m doing something that’s correct. Some of them are more successful personally than others. But when I really make a photograph that feels like a personal reflection of myself, there’s nothing like it for me. When I go out with a camera, it’s often just practice. I wouldn’t normally be out here at midday on a sunny day. This isn’t something I would usually do, but I’m trying to challenge myself and give myself exercises all the time. This series is an experiment in and of itself, so every photograph is also an experiment. The project Sin Tiempo, it’s less subject based, it’s more conceptually based. Early on I became fascinated by the idea that there can be timeless imagery in a modern world. concertina plays in waltz time It was just a quick one-off photograph that I took in Paris in 1986, but it was the first image that I made that illuminated a fascination that I have with timeless imagery, pictures that don’t reflect popular culture, that don’t give much evidence of the era in which they were taken. It’s kind of sometimes an accidental confluence of a person, some clothes, some light, a building, a moment, and I came to think of those photographs and as the series that developed from it as Sin Tiempo, which is without time in Spanish. I’ve been working on this 10 years, 20 years, I don’t know. And I probably have 15 or 16 pictures so far, so let’s see how long it takes for the rest of the ’em. You know, I’ll make some prints out of this day and we’ll see what they do. They’ll survive or they won’t. I want to work on personal projects that are self-directed and turn them into books. I love books; they’re something of a legacy. It’s going to be on somebody’s shelf 50 years from now, maybe 100 years from now and I like that. I like that my books might be around for a while, having a life of their own as opposed to being photographs that I keep for myself. Los Toros was a series that started when I was just out of college. I was traveling around Spain with some friends, was taken to my first bullfight in Madrid, and I was immediately taken by the fact that it was extremely emotional, it was very aesthetic, it was cultural, it was historic, it was graphic, it was sort of shocking. I didn’t really know what it would become. I didn’t even know if I was going to continue photography or not, and I certainly didn’t know that it was going to be a book or a 15-year project, that’s for sure. acoustic guitar plays softly I’m working now on a book about the disappearing world of cattle ranching in the mountains of Colorado. And it has some similarities to Los Toros. It’s cultural, it’s about people, it’s about a disappearing, rough, dangerous, curious kind of life. Even though the subject matters have quite a bit in common, there are different challenges to shooting ranchers in the West. There is no obvious focal point, and you’re out in this vast land. You know, maybe the one thing that happens that day happens without you looking at it, then you’re done for the day. And it’s an ongoing challenge and education in another kind of photography. I didn’t really get in to showing my work in a serious way until about 5 years ago. I had already been a commercial photographer for 20 years or something, and just doing all this stuff on my own. But now there’s a new door opened to me, a new outlet for my photography, this fine-art world, and I enjoy it, I enjoy it very much, ’cause I love showing my pictures on the wall. It’s kind of exciting, you know? piano plays in bright rhythm I use digital photography for certain purposes, but I never use it for my personal work. I prefer to use film because it just feels correct to me, it feels more like a craft. All of my subjects are sort of rough and raw and tactile, and I really love the process of tactile photography, putting something in a camera, taking it out of the camera, processing it in liquid, putting it in an enlarger, which is a machine, you know, it’s not a computer, it’s a mechanical thing. I know how to use digital cameras, I know how to use computers, but I always go back to this mechanical way of making photographs, it’s light and silver, and that’s what I like about photography. I don’t, I don’t really care to use computers in my own personal work. I mean, it is what’s happening in photography today, it’s how people make pictures, but it’s not how I make pictures. Attention!

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