Interview #14: Michael Crowley (2021)⁠

“Frost on black plastic’” by Michael Crowley/December 2004

Michael Crowley has been a photographer for so long it is as natural as breathing. For him, photography is a kind of meditation. His pictures are meditations on light, shadow and texture that encourage us to be present. The images that Michael shares remind us to take a breath and refocus — quietly demonstrating that there is beauty anywhere you look.

Here’s our interview with him.

PR/Please tell us about yourself and your background.

MC/The first picture I ever took was in 1967 with a 4x5 Speed Graphic. I was at the U.S. Navy School of Photography in Pensacola Florida. I spent the next twenty years shooting 35mm black and white, and loving it. In 1984 my house burned down with everything in it, including my Leica and 10,000+ negatives. Fortunately I still had an old Leica with collapsible lens in my car’s glove box so I was able to keep shooting, starting with the fire’s ashes. I went digital in the 90s.

“Beneath’” by Michael Crowley/North Shore, Lake Superior (December 2004)

PR/What does photography mean to you? What place does it take in your life?

MC/Photography is so much a part of me that the question doesn’t really make sense. It’s like asking what my lungs mean to me. Besides feeding my creative urge, photography is a meditative practice that allows me to be present. It requires me to be present. I have always been an avid photographer and since getting a phone with a decent camera I am even moreso.

“Creekside’” by Michael Crowley/Taos, New Mexico (November 2008)

PR/Describe your relationship with abstract photography.

MC/Abstract photography is like the birth mother that I never heard about until late in life. Though remembering my early black and white work, with its emphasis on light, shadow and texture, I knew the genre without hearing the name. When I went digital with its macro abilities my abstract work exploded. I had always shot florals but my macro florals connected me with Georgia O’Keeffe’s inspiration.

“Adobe’” by Michael Crowley/Abiquiu, New Mexico (September 2005)

PR/How do you choose your subjects?

MC/Honestly, they choose me. There is a wall in New Mexico that I drove by several times over several years time yet it kept calling to me. I finally scheduled a trip to that small town to stop and get the shot. Most often it is composition that catches my eye, sometimes texture, rarely color. I think it comes from my black and white days.

“Denial” by Michael Crowley/Iowa City, Iowa (March 2019)

PR/What is your creative process and what role does editing play in your work?

MC/I trust my eye and shoot when something catches it. I have found that the first composition I saw is usually the best and while I do shoot multiples, they are mainly to ensure sharp focus. When I get back to the house I do a rough cull on the phone. I then process everything in Snapseed right on the phone before doing my final culling. I try to keep the edits minimal, just trying to get the image to match what I saw before clicking. I have been using Orton Effects lately, probably due to aging eyes not seeing it sharply in the first place.

“Barn descending” by Michael Crowley/October 2019

PR/What has had an impact on you and influenced your approach to art?

MC/The work of others like Georgia O’Keeffe, Minor White, Aaron Siskind, Edward Weston. The easy access to macro with digital cameras and now phones allows you to move in effortlessly. Retirement has allowed me the time to just play with images in the editor. My work that is the most abstract is usually done with multiple layers upon layers — often thrown out but occasionally a winner.

“Burn Barrel series’” by Michael Crowley/2018

PR/What are you trying to express with your work, and how do you achieve your purpose?

MC/I never felt the need for having a purpose or reason for taking pictures. I try to take pretty pictures, mostly for my walls. These days I like to say that I am demonstrating that there is beauty anywhere you look, but I was doing it for thirty years before anyone outside my family saw them.

“Leaf landscape series’” by Michael Crowley/August 2019

PR/Tell us about your other Instagram projects.

MC/As well as @aanji2, Michael has three other Instagram accounts showcasing different aspects of his work, some images from which are featured in the carousel. Unsurprisingly, @aanji_travels is of some of the favourite places he has visited. @Ashtracts is “one man’s response to junk mail”. And @leaf.landscapes is precisely that. Please pay them a visit!

Abstract self-portrait by Michael Crowley.

Michael Crowley has been a photographer for so long it is as natural as breathing. For him, photography is a kind of meditation. His pictures are meditations on light, shadow and texture that encourage us to be present. The images that Michael shares remind us to take a breath and refocus — quietly demonstrating that there is beauty anywhere you look.

Interviewed by Paul Rowland.

Additional pictures from Michael Crowley curated by Paul Rowland.

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New digital magazine that seeks to portray the abstract photography scene and the human-beings behind the pictures in all their depth and diversity.

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