Interview #5: Mike Bailey-Gates
CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?
Mike Bailey-Gates: I’ve always been very interested in art. In elementary school we would have these little art shows and the art class teacher would always choose kids to put things in it. Every class I remember shoving my projects in her face. When I was about 11 or 12 I begged my parents for a camera for Christmas and to my surprise I woke up and found a little Olympus point and shoot camera under the tree. It wasn’t a very good camera but it was the greatest gift. I took pictures of everything, mostly nature and later I became interested in people. From then it went on and on to get where I am today.
CUS: What kind of camera do you enjoy using the most?
MBG: I would have to say my Holga film camera. It is my favorite camera to use even though it doesn’t produce the best photographs for modern photography standards. When I do shoots I use my EOS Digital Rebel XTi.
CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?
MBG: I would have to say people are the most interesting to shoot. My Uncle, who is in a way like our “family photographer,” once said that “people only like photographs unless they have a human being in them.” Sometimes I agree with this while other times, not so much. I prefer shooting people because I love watching them and seeing how they move and react to things. My friend and I love to people watch.
CUS: You use yourself as a model in many of your photographs. Does self portraiture come more naturally to you than photographing a model?
MBG: It all depends on the situation and the mood. Sometimes there are certain emotions I want to put in a photograph that I don’t think I could explain to my willing friends who pose for me. I prefer to be behind the camera 100% of the time. It is so much easier for me to get the picture in my head out when I’m only focusing on one thing. Plus I think my photographs come out better when I’m not in them.
CUS: How much time do you generally spend on a shoot?
MBG: Usually I spend an hour to about 4 hours at most depending on the scene.
CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most?
MBG: There aren’t many things I don’t like about photography. I would have to say I don’t like how some people think they are professional photographers because they buy a heavy expensive camera. Photography isn’t about that. I know a girl (Tara) who created beautiful images using a simple web camera. That is talent and I think people confuse these things sometimes, which is really sad. The one thing I love the most about photography is that I can imagine a picture of something in my mind, and create it into something that is concrete, something that world can see. I like to draw, paint, and sketch but, Photography is the only thing that I have ever been able to express that picture in my mind with properly.
CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?
MBG: Light. I love light, its fun to manipulate and use it to your advantage. It can make or break your photograph.
CUS: It seems that color plays a very important role within your photography. Would you agree with this?
MBG: Yes! I like to play around with new and different color schemes. Before every photograph I take I quick glance around and make sure the colors I want are in the photograph. We have eyes for a reason; I like to make sure people use them to see something beautiful.
CUS: Photo manipulation is obviously one of your fortes. How did you learn to use Photoshop/other photo manipulating computer programs?
MBG: I learned to use Photoshop from mostly trial and error and experimentation. In the past few months or so I have been really trying to just improve my photography skills by using Photoshop as little as possible. I like the results and appreciate them a whole lot more.
CUS: Do you feel that your mood affects the type of photographs you produce on a particular day?
MBG: Oh yes, in a lot of ways. If I’m depressed I seem to be more creative. I don’t pay attention to what’s going on and I am more focused on what is going on in my head, instead of everyone else’s. If I’m I awake and ready for things I actually think my photographs aren’t as good.
CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot?
MBG: Not always, but most of the times yes.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?
MBG: Wow. That’s a difficult question. Um I would have to say Marilyn Monroe, too be honest I don’t know much about her. But in the photographs I have seen of her, she seems like a very skilled model. I read once that people couldn’t tell if she was posing in a photo of if she was actually crying, laughing etc. She’s the master of emotion.
CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?
MBG: Yes, but I could never be forced to choose just one. Some of them are: Chantal Michel, Elene Usdin, Tim Walker, and Bruno Dayan.
CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey often?
MBG: I like to try and make photographs that have the viewer to think about them even after they are done looking at it. I try to use themes from stories and create a new world.
CUS: What is your favorite photograph that you’ve taken?
MBG: This one. When I took this the weather was crazy, and getting her into that tree was even crazier. But when I looked through the viewfinder on the camera a strong wind blew and the sun came through the trees perfectly, it was amazing. Later my model told me that someone defiantly wanted us to take that photo.
CUS: I have to ask, how did you execute your photograph entitled “Help, I’m Alive” (the one of you bursting out of the cards)?
MBG: Ah, it looks like a lot more work than it is. I taped the cards to a poster board so it looked like a wall of cards. Then I cut a hole in the middle of the board and with wire I lifted the cards so it appeared they were flying away. Later I found a spot in my room and hung it up so I could fit my head through it. It came out better than I thought it would.
CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?
MBG: I think if you’re really interested in photography then everywhere you go is a perfect place to take photos. You just have to open your eyes. I would love to do a shoot in a city like New York; I think that would be very interesting.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?
MBG: Technology only allows people to take better photos easily. It’s the way you use the camera that counts. People today think the camera is supposed to give you a good photo just by pressing a button. That’s terribly wrong. So, no I don’t believe it’s true.
CUS: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Do you think that photography will still be a big part of your life?
MBG: Twenty years. Wow. I picture myself shooting for a popular magazine of some sorts. At least that’s where I want to be. I would rather be homeless than not be a photographer.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
MBG: Don’t let anyone ever tell you that they are better than you, because they aren’t. Also don’t be afraid to go out and take chances, if someone sees you walking down the street with a clown outfit on for a photo, don’t worry about it. The world in a canvas, it’s your job to paint it using a camera.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Shelbie Dimond, wants to know: Do you think Photoshop/other editing programs have enhanced the art of photography?
MBG: I think photo editing software has enhanced photography. People have always edited photos, in darkroom on film, but I think some people go a little bit overboard. I was on the verge of that, but luckily I saved myself. Now I try to not use Photoshop at all, it’s called photography, not photo shopping.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee?
MBG: Do you think film photography will be not gone when we are adults?