Michael Wriston

Where are you from/based now?

I'm originally from Maryland, but work and life have taken me all over the place. Right now, I'm living in California.

What is your background in Photography? What keeps you interested?

I'm just a hobbyist with no real formal education in photography. The closest to formal education I've received is when Patrick Joust taught me how to develop black and white film in his apartment in Baltimore. I got my start by taking long exposure photographs at night when I lived in the Baltimore area, just experimenting with exposures and compositions. I learned the ins and outs of the art either by accident or by finding other people's photographic work that resonated with me and reverse engineering it.

What keeps me going is the act of creativity, the sense of exploration. There are very few frontiers left to explore, but I believe that today, photography enables us to re-examine old territory with new perspectives, and to discover from a photographer's perspective something new in well-trodden places. Sharing work with a wider audience on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, and Instagram is compelling to me. It's a chance to share a perspective on the world and also gain some insight into our fellow humans. And that is inspiration enough to want to create and feed into that greater cycle of creativity.

What equipment do you use?

I used to shoot a lot with medium format film cameras, specifically a Kiev 60 and Yashica Mat 124G. These days, I've made the switch to digital and am shooting with Olympus' Micro 4/3 cameras like the E-PL1 and OM-D E-M5. I'm still a sucker for manual focus lenses, and use a Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 lens. I also shoot a lot with my iPhone. I edit my digital photos in Lightroom using the filters from Visual Supply Co. I think they make subtle improvements in my photographs that grant me some aesthetic consistency and expediency in my workflow.

In the photographic community right now, there is a pretty heated divide between analog and digital photographers, and I'm not sure why. There are so many communities that are film only or digital only, ostensibly with the purpose of separating "superior" photographs from "inferior" ones. This has given way to a new generation of photographers that have adopted a format as their photographic identity. No longer is someone just a photographer, they are a film photographer, or an iPhoneographer, and so on. I used to spell out exactly what gear I used to take each shot, but I found that in transitioning to digital, many people stopped paying attention to my work when I indicated I had used an E-PL1 to take a shot rather than an Asahi Pentax. Now, I don't overtly outline what I'm using, and let the photos stand on their own.

I would encourage new photographers to pay no mind to any of it, and to focus instead on taking good photos with whatever they can get their hands on.

Do you take one shot of a subject then move on or will you take several and decide on the best in editing?

Shooting film always had me thinking cost, so I would be quite selective when I took a shot and heavily considered every angle, every exposure, every frame. It's a mindset that has served me well in digital photography, as well. I want to get things right in camera as much as possible, and I want to be selective. So mostly I take one or two shots, and then move on. This is to help keep editing to a minimum, and also because limitation breeds creativity.

When I was starting out, though, I shot hundreds of photos at every combination of F-stop and shutter speed, from a variety of different angles, in myriad different lighting conditions. I think that was an important step in developing technique and style. Sorting the photos out afterwards helped me develop my eye as an editor, which is every photographer's second job. After a while, that selectiveness becomes second nature, and you can start to apply it out on the street.

How often do you go out shooting?

Much to my wife's chagrin, I have terrible wanderlust and an almost endless case of cabin fever. I'm always clamoring for an opportunity to go take pictures. Thankfully, she's very supportive and understanding of what could be considered my photographic "addiction." Usually I make it a point to get out once a week, and mostly on Sunday mornings. I think Sunday morning is perhaps the perfect time to make the kind of photos I strive to make, when the world is very sleepy and exhausted from the weekend, and the streets are empty. There's a kind of loneliness and vulnerability in a Sunday morning that is challenging and invigorating to capture in a photographic medium.

If you could spend the day shooting with another photographer who would it be?

I had the distinct pleasure of shooting with several of my photographic idols this last year, such as Cait Kovac in Atlanta and Chris Hall in San Francisco. I got to catch up with my friend Patrick Joust while he was in Monterey this Autumn, and that was great.

If I could, I would love to explore the American South with Missy Prince, whose work is as close to perfect as I have found. After that, I would relish the opportunity to spend a week roadtripping with Kevin Russ, who shoots the most amazing landscape photos with just an iPhone.

Is there a particular photographer, site, set of images or a photo book that you keep coming back to for inspiration?

There's not one particular photographer, no. I think my Flickr stream is a very inspiring place. Right now, Carlo Alberto Danna's portrait work is a huge inspiration, as is Steven Brooks' Seattle night landscape series.

Are you working on a project at the moment?

I'm unfortunately very scatter-brained, and haven't had the focus or time to work on any set projects. I'm hoping to do some landscape work in a couple National Parks in 2014, which has been a goal of mine for some time. I would also like to do some social landscape work in the Pacific Northwest. The only project per se I've been working on is an exploration of an abandoned Army post in Central California. I would like to someday start taking street portraits again.

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