My name is Michael Padilla and this is my oral presentation for Positions and Practice.
Over the next 9 minutes I will be analyzing my past and current practice and talking about where I see my work heading.
My interest in photography began when I was 15 years old. At the time I was looking for a hobby and signed up for a photography workshop with Bryce Denison, then working as a forensic photographer for the Detroit Fire Department. Over the course of 8 weeks I fell in love with the art form and later went on to build a dark room with the help of my father and another Michigan photographer, Rob Jerstrom.
From 16 on, I worked with my local school newspaper before attending university at the Rochester Institute of Technology from 1999-2003.
During my time there, I learned the basics of photography and my mind was opened to the possibilities of the field.
At the time I entered school, the curriculum, and the photography world, was still focused on film so we were taught black and white and color processes, and introduced to a variety of equipment. Advances in scanning technology began to be introduced by my second year and by graduation, although still using film, everything was scanned and processed in Photoshop before being printed on Epson inkjet printers.
In 2003 I graduated with a BFA and decided to stay in Rochester for a year to fill in for one of the facilities managers in the repair/maintenance area of the photography school who was on medical leave.
In 2004, having saved the majority of my income over the previous year and sold the majority of my equipment, I moved to southern Spain to learn Spanish and figure out what I wanted to do.
I spent 6 months falling in love with the city of Seville before moving back to the US and settling in Chicago. While there, I worked mornings in the box office of a theater and did headshots and product photography with Paul Zimmerman, a former classmate while assisting for more prominent photographers in the city.
In 2005, on a particularly cold, snowy winter day, I saw a job offer for language assistants in Spain, the only requirement being a university degree, so I applied on a whim, not intending to actually go through with it. 6 months later, to my surprise, I was assigned a school in Seville, the city I had fallen in love with and so I once again unloaded any belongings I’d collected and set off to Europe.
Over the next 3 years I lived and worked in Spain as an English teacher, spending summers in New York city and Detroit assisting for friends, picking up scanning and spotting work in different labs and trying to save enough to spend another year.
From that time to 2012, my photographic work was focused on street photography, informed by the works of Gary Winogrand, Ryan McGinley and William Eggleston.
The attraction to these photographers began during my undergrad period when I was first exposed to their works. Gary Winogrand’s knack for shooting on the fly (Garry Winogrand Article) on the streets of New York, a city I visited often while at university inspired me to be more free with my compositions.
On one of those visits I attended the 2002 Ryan McGinley exhibition at the Whitney, ‘The Kids are Alright’ (Ryan McGinley article). His photographs of the “non-gay gay movement in NYC” spoke of his life, and his obsessive documentation of it. The youth and fire apparent in the images was another awakening for me.
William Eggleston’s work, his striking use of color and attention to framing the vernacular landscape of the southern US resonated with what I wished I could do with my photography.
For work, however, during this time I was focused on headshots for various flamenco dancers in my new home in Seville, Spain, including my wife. I got another undergraduate degree in nursing and began working with Doctors of the World in harm reduction. I also learned WordPress through online forums, youtube, and many sleepless nights, using it to create a Fashion news website and online store, So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins with two partners, which I run to this day the project is currently in standby.
In 2014 I was offered a temporary position teaching photography to study abroad students from the United State at an organization here in Seville. Since then, the position has become “permanent”, depending of course on student enrollment.
I think a better question to address is why I’m here and what I hope to achieve. Professionally, since I began working with undergrads, I have been offered further courses with the University of Seville and I hope to improve my employment opportunities and CV with this MFA program.
Artistically, in recent years I have felt that I could go further with my work. Collaborations with my wife, a Flamenco dancer, organizing her promotional material and shooting and editing videos of her performances, and the fashion website have impressed upon me the importance of continuing my education. However, I feel that I could use some direction with my work and the motivation that comes from working with fellow photographers and investing in education.
During my MA I hope to explore the urban environment that surrounds me.
I wish to better understand the concept of the vernacular photograph and how it relates to where I live.
Harry Callahan, with his experimental images from the streets of Chicago, and the rowhouses of Providence, Rhode Island was an important figure in the popularization of this model but his work was also diaristic. The art critic John Pultz, in his 1996 article on the Harry Callahan exhibition at Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art says:
“Callahan’s lasting and important contribution to post war photography comes not from his prodigious experimentation but from his highly personal, even diaristic, almost confessional voice. …Callahan opened several generations of photographers and teachers to the possibility of such diaristic work, giving permission for photography tha claims, above all else, “This is what I saw”.’
Eugene Atget’s work documenting Le Vieux Paris will also inform my approach to looking at the urban space. The photographer was acutely aware of the changes happening all around him and his approach to dealing with this change was through his photographic work. As a result of technique and process, longer exposure times, the early hour at which Atget set out to photograph his cityscapes, the deliberate emptiness of the city he inhabited.
Alexandra Tranca, in her article on Théophile Gautier and Eugène Atget entitled From Pompeii to paris: ghostly cityscapes and the ruins of modernity in Théophile Gautier and Eugène Atget, says:
… at a time when the city’s pulse is measured in the vigour of the crowd flowing through its streets, the choice to exclude the human element bespeaks an archaeological approach, as if both Gautier and Atget were undertaking a post-mortem analysis of the urban subject, attempting to locate traces of its spirit in the material remains.
The poetry of images is also an important aspect that I would like to incorporate into my work. In the seminal work, The Americans, Robert Frank applied an outsider’s eye to the environment around him. The poetry in his images and their relation to each other are not linear in the narrative sense. In an interview with the photographer in an interview with Robert Enright and Meeka Walsh in May 2013:
“about the form of narratives- in his books and in his photographs assembled from multiple images- being more poetic than literal and linear. His response was the elliptical poetry you recognize from the few lines he writes in his books, from the words inscribed on the photographs themselves. “It’s just the friends I have, people I know.. ..It’s just the people I know and it’s where I live.“
- SCOTT, A.O. Review: ‘Garry Winogrand’ Pictures an Artist and His World, New York Times, NYC, 18 Sept, 2018, New York edition. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/18/movies/garry-winogrand-all-things-are-photographable-review-documentary.html
- MCGINLEY, RYAN. The Kids Were All Right. Vice.com, 01 May 2008 Vice Magazine. Available online at: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/kw73ze/the-kids-were-alright-v15n5
- TRANCA, ALEXANDRA. 2016. ‘From Pompeii to Paris: Ghostly Cityscapes and the Ruins of Modernity in Théophile Gautier and Eugène Atget’. Word & Image 32(3), [online], 251–63. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02666286.2016.1159897.
- PULTZ, JOHN. 1996. ‘Harry Callahan’. Art Journal 55(4), online, 103–5. Available at: http://search.proquest.com/docview/223319247/.
- WINANT, CARMEN and WINANT, CARMEN. 2012. ‘Harry Callahan at 100.’ Aperture (206), [online], 18–18. Available at: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1320384612/.
- ENRIGHT, ROBERT and WALSH, MEEKA. 2013. ‘Possibly, Everything: An Interview with Robert Frank’. Border Crossings 32(1), [online], 22–37. Available at: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1367939842/.