Interview with Michael Chase (Area of Interest)
Many of you may already be familiar with the excellent work of Michael Chase, the Texas based photographer who’s extremely popular ‘Area of Interest’ blog is one of the finest on Tumblr. Since Michael is one of my favourite photographer it is with great pleasure that I am able to bring you some incite into his work.
Michael your work is very distinctive, how would you describe your style?
My work is based in abstract expressionism. I use color, composition, and texture to highlight the subject of decay. I mainly shoot vertically which causes the viewer’s eye to fall through the images. Minimal compositions allow the viewer to absorb the message quickly. I edit my pictures heavily and I’m not afraid to alter colors, remove parts, or use distortion to create a better image.
Explain to us the idea behind the Area of Interest title?
I came up with the name Area of Interest to represent my entire body of work as each image is an area of my interest. It’s general enough to encapsulate any future project that I might be involved with.
Your subjects tend to be buildings, little details, patterns, lines, textures etc, does this make it easier to find source material for your work, when others often rely on individual moments, events or places?
I think every kind of photographer has to develop an eye for whatever subject they choose to focus on. The more developed their eye, the easier it is to find what they are looking for, regardless of subject matter. That being said, the majority of my work revolves around deteriorating urban environments and there are certain risks involved. I find I must always be aware of my surroundings for safety reasons. It also helps to be a decent runner and climber if, like myself, you find you are trespassing occasionally. I have climbed onto trains, old roofs, and over fences for the sake of getting a good shot. There are also potential run-ins with security people and some very interesting strangers. Last summer, I was taking pictures of an old warehouse on a dirt road, when a car pulled up alongside me with two men in it. One of the men leaned out and asked me what I was doing and made me tell him my name. I told him I was a photographer and he threatened to through my camera in the river. Needless to say, I hauled ass out of that situation.
Not all interactions that I have while I’m out shooting are dangerous. I encounter basic curiosity more than anything else. People often look at what it is exactly that I am taking a picture of. Some people will flat out ask. Not long ago, a man came up to me and suspiciously asked me what I was doing. I explained to him what I do and showed him some photos, he was so excited he wanted me to come back and take pictures of the mural he was having painted. The most unexpected, but welcomed, response is laughter. Some people can’t help but laugh when they see a guy who is very seriously interested in taking pictures of walls.
What brought you to photography and why is it important to you?
It was a need to create that first brought me to photography. It had been years since I picked up a pencil or brush. I wanted to try something new so I borrowed my girlfriend’s camera one day and went out. I was amazed by how I could isolate a scene and create art at the click of a button. It was an incredible experience, that first day, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Photography is important to me personally because it’s like a form meditation. When I’m in the process, I become totally absorbed in it.
Do you have a particular favourite photograph, one that means a lot to you or represents a time or moment in your life?
Some turn out more aesthetically pleasing than others but they all remind me of a time or place in my life, so my favorites are always in flux.
What inspires you to create?
I’m highly drawn to dilapidated buildings, textures of decay, and unconscious art. There are mysteries and untold stories in these types of surfaces that I believe are worth noting. From exploring and finding subjects to framing shots then editing, the entire process of photographing around these themes calls to me.
Do you have a favourite artist that has had a significant impact on the way you work?
Aaron Siskind, Piet Mondrian, Vaughan Oliver, and Simon Larbalestier have all influenced me greatly through their own work and dedication.
You recently produced a fantastic logo design for my blog, is this something you would like to do more of?
Definitely. In graphic design I get to create something from a blank slate, which uses a completely different set of skills than photography. It’s very satisfying to successfully actualize a concept through my own artistic vision.
What do you hope to achieve through your photography?
I want to show people that beauty can be found in very unlikely places. I want to continue to develop my style and further explore many of the themes that my past work has alluded to. Eventually I would like to have my work shown in galleries throughout the world.
Finally is there another tumblr artist or blog that you really enjoy and would like to promote?
Tumblr is a community driven by incredible artists and curators. There are way too many outstanding blogs to name them all. These are just a few of my favorites:
Michael has just opened and online store and is taking commissions for logo and graphic designs. Be sure to check out his page and admire his wonderful work.
Interview conducted by Jack Hardwicke - The Eidophusikon