“Most of us tend to think and communicate in language most of the time. But there are other ways of thinking. You can think in music, in mathematics, in dance. And also images. That’s what photography means to me: thinking in images.”
Michael Goldberg (born in 1974 in Adelaide) is an Australian contemporary photography with a special focus in portrait photography. He’s currently based in Los Angeles, California. Michael Goldberg studied photography at University of Sydney (Australia).
“Michael Goldberg creates images that blur the line between documentary truth and theatrically staged photography. His use of artificial light takes candid portraits beyond the realm of traditional street photography, infusing what would otherwise appear to be commonplace subjects with added psychology and emotion. As such, his work aims to create an alternative kind of photographic truth.”
Interview with Michael Goldberg
Michael, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My father bought me a cheap SLR camera when I was about 15 years old. I used to take pictures of things I found interesting, but I was usually disappointed that they didn’t look very interesting as photographs!
Why did you become a photographer?
I enjoy the act of taking pictures. When you get into the flow of taking pictures, time passes very quickly. I become absorbed in it and I don’t feel any particular emotion. In that sense, it’s a bit like meditating for me. It’s only after I’ve finished shooting, when I look at the results, that I feel something. Usually disappointment!
What does photography mean to you?
Making images is a certain way of thinking and communicating. Most of us tend to think and communicate in language most of the time. But there are other ways of thinking. You can think in music, in mathematics, in dance. And also images. That’s what photography means to me: thinking in images.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
I really couldn’t name just one. My list would have to include William Eggleston, Shomei Tomatsu, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Bruce Gilden, Wolfgang Tillmans, Daido Moriyama, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Rineke Dijkstra, and Walker Evans. I could go on and on. Each has inspired me in different ways, but what they have in common is their originality.
Magnum Photographer Bruce Gilden accompanied by Olivier Laurent, shooting street portraits in Derby (England).
“Head On”, presented by British Journal of Photography.
“I’m photographing myself out there. Not myself physically, but mentally. It’s my take on the world.”
What’s your favourite photography quote?
I think it was Chuck Close who said something along the lines of:
Photography’s easy, which is why it’s so hard to be original.
I would agree with that.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
I would say my photographic language is pretty direct, but also dramatic. My way of working is very instinctual; if I see something that interests me, I take a picture of it.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language and how did you achieve it?
I think it varies. It could be a conceptual innovation, as with the Bechers, Cindy Sherman, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, etc. It could be something technical that makes a difference, for instance Stephen Shore adopting large format. It could be the desire to convey a particular point of view about life, as with Martin Parr. Of course it’s never just one thing. It’s how you combine these possibilities. In my case I think it was a combination of the decision to approach the subjects of my pictures very directly, and my discovery of the technique of mixing natural and artificial light.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Technically: a combination of natural and artificial light. Conceptually: A direct, almost documentary approach to the subject, but with a heightened sense of theatricality, in order to blur the line between fact and fiction.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
I think a good photographer needs to be a good editor of his or her own work, because everyone takes bad photos. And I think you should make the types of pictures that you enjoy looking at, rather than try to please anyone else.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
To be great, a photo needs to work psychologically and formally at the same time. In other words, it needs to elicit a strong emotional response, and it needs to work visually within the frame.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I look at a lot of photos and paintings, go to galleries and watch movies. Travel is good too.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
What’s your favourite website about photography?
DK Collection, a blog with discussions of vintage and contemporary photography: dlkcollection.blogspot.com.br.
What photography book would you recommend?
“Camera Lucida” by Roland Barthes.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Find a mentor, a photographer you respect, who can give you honest feedback about your work.