Rfotofolio is very pleased to share the beautiful work of Michael Jackson. Thank you Michael for your time.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I am a photographer based in West Wales, UK. I live in a very rural community near the Pembrokeshire coast. I work in a number of different processes – usually using different techniques for each individual project.
How did you get started in photography?
I am trained as a landscape painter. I used to be an apprentice to my old painting tutor and used to work in his studio. I have never been interested in colour and eventually my painting lead to charcoal and then finally to black and white photography. After a number of years my wife and I moved to Wales and I began studying things full time.
Which photographers and other artists’ work do you admire?
I admire anyone who manages to make a living making art. It is such a difficult thing to do. With regards to photographers there are only a few – Mario Giacomelli comes to mind – but I am mainly influenced by painters – Frank Auerbach, Keith Vaughan, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth. I find that I can study the work of painters without my work becoming influenced by the look of their paintings. Their thinking influences me considerably – and I hope to be able to take that and mould it into the way I go about making my own images.
Did you have a mentor?
My mentor was my old painting tutor Chris W. Baker. He showed me how important a dedicated space to work in was, he showed me how to take making art seriously and not just dabble at it. He also explained that tenacity is the essential factor in making a career in art – just keep on going and don’t give up.
Do you mentor?
I try to help if I can, but not mentor. Nobody has ever asked actually! I could possibly help on the fringe of things, giving broad suggestions, but I think that the meat of the work has to be done alone with your own thoughts and discoveries.
If you could spend the day with another photographer living or from the past who would it be ?
If I could sit down and talk to another photographer it would wither be Wynn Bullock or Mario Giacomelli. If they had to be alive I would choose either Keith Carter or Wayne Levin.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
Yes! I would do exactly the same as I am doing now. The desire to study these things and try to find something new is addictive. The satisfaction you get from making an image is the best thing I know.
How do you decide what your top images are?
There is that voice inside – about in the middle of your stomach – that lets you know if something is good. You can tell instantly. If I get that same feeling after turning the image upside down then I know it is a keeper. I then hide it away and come back to it later to make sure my mind isn’t playing tricks on me. If I still get that feeling, then I’m happy with it.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day for you.
I don’t stick to any one process. I tend to use a different one for each individual project. These ideas turn up usually through hours of creative play in the darkroom or studio. I start with an observation about something – anything really – and think about what I like about that thing, and then try different ideas out – leaving out the bad results and keeping in the good. After a while you find that you have wound up getting results that you like by using a strange bespoke process that you would never have thought of otherwise. For example – I photograph landscapes in the studio using rocks and an old fishtank – along with a handful of breadcrumbs. It sound crazy but the process just evolved into this and it seems to work. I also make luminograms (just light directed onto paper – no film or camera or object photographed). I didn’t even know they were luminograms when I started them. I just played with old unused test strips of RC paper until a process evolved with many steps. I think that, for me, this is a good valid way of making new work that is different and uniquely you.
My perfect day is waking up and knowing that for the foreseeable future I have no meetings or distractions coming up. Hitchcock said that he could only work well on his films when he had a clear horizon for the future. I know exactly what he meant – the fact that you know you have time and space to create is itself the basis of being in a state of mind to create. But life is never like that – and you have to try and push all your other commitments into the back of your thoughts.
What challenges do you face as an artist?
I think that artists face challenges all the time. It is a crazy profession. You make this solid commitment to do something that has no guarantees and often low prospects. You take this one time that you have on this earth and you spend it doing something that other people think is insane. You have to be brave and untroubled by lack of money. You have to put the desire to learn and create higher than the desire for nice holidays. If you can do that, and keep on going when every fibre in your body tells you to give up, then eventually things will start to go right for you and life becomes a bit easier. It is just like any other career – it takes years and years. But, after spending many years in an office, it is a wonderful thing to do – but you do need to be somewhat selfish.
What is next?
I am currently deep into studying luminograms in the darkroom. I spent eight years studying a single beach in Wales – Poppit Sands – and this has an effect on everything else that I produce. The luminograms are as satisfying to me as photographing the beach and they allow me to create without relying on nature. It is all from me, my hand gestures and my experience on the beach so far. That is what is so exciting – The Luminograms seem to be a new way to capture the solid abstract forms that are around us all the time – but without the need to photograph them.
To learn more about the work of Michael Jackson please visit his site at, Michael Jackson.