Photographer of the Month: Michael T. Middleton

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I am so excited to share our September Photographer of the Month. Michael T. Middleton is an old friend and cherished writer, whom I met from gather.com. When I receive notices that Michael has a new article up, I immediately click over and read and laugh. He's a consummate traveler, as well as a wry observer of the humorous vagaries of the human condition. AND, as a double bonus, he's an extraordinary photographer. We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Michael about his work, photography, travel, and more. Here's what he had to say...

 

Michael Middleton - Maine

 Lobster Boat near Pemaquid Point, Maine

 

 

Michael Middleton - bisti

Cracked Eggs Formations, Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico

 

 

WE: How did you get interested in photography?

MM: When I was a kid, our house was filled to the brim with books, including old encyclopedias, atlases, and a collection of classic books in our living room
that gave me access to the world's great literature. These instilled a desire in me a deep desire to travel. My family took our share of vacations but they were all domestic, and usually to see family in the Midwest, and most of my friends' families went to the islands or the shore duringthe summer, so I had very little connection to the other countries of the world outside of photography. After I graduated from college and got a job, I suddenly had the freedom (and money) to begin to travel, and within two or three international trips I found myself focusing more on the quality of the photographs I brought back.

 

Michael Middleton - Paris

Lion with Eiffel Tower - Paris, France

 

 

Michael Middleton - paris

Living Statue Performer at Montmartre, Paris, France

 

 

WE: How long have you been a photographer?

MM: I started caring about the photographs I took in 2004, so that is probably the best start date to use.

 

Michael Middleton - Paris

Light through Stained Glass in Church, Paris, France

 

 

Michael Middleton - Paris

Statue in Jardin, Paris, France

 

 

WE: What is your favorite place to photograph? Or subject?

MM: That's a really good question. I think my favorite subject changes over time; for the last several years my photography was all based around the places I traveled to, but this year I began shooting people and it has been extraordinarily fulfilling. So I would say that for right now, my favorite subject
is people. As for a favorite place, Paris was superb to visit and photograph, but I think New York City and the American West both edge it out because of my own personal connections to those places. I feel like I have years of unfinished photography business in all of those destinations, though. And I do sometimes wish I had been more serious about photography when I visited some of the strange places I have been, such as Easter Island, Egypt, Iceland and Tasmania. That  said, though, travel still remains my first love on those trips - I think with my new work in photographing people, the two hobbies have split to have equal importance in my life.

 

 

 Michael Middleton - Paris

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France

 

 

Michael Middleton

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

 

 

Michael Middleton - australia

Cradle Mountain Wilderness, Island of Tasmania

 

 

WE: How can photographers help change/impact the world, while they are traveling?

MM: I think an entire series of books could be written on the answer to this question, so in the interest of brevity, I will just say that one of the most
profound ways in which a photographer can affect the world is through his or her larger role as a traveler. Firstly, when I go overseas I am cognizent that
I represent the USA, of which I am very proud, so I try through my own behavior to show other people what I feel my country is really about. And secondly, the very act of traveling - especially to places that are though to be dicey or have perhaps fallen on hard times - is one of the best ways we can help a country move to a more stable and safe existence. In countries where poverty and oppression are ubiquitous, the simple act of having foreign travelers there - apart from the economic strength it brings to the local economy - also puts the local government on notice that its behavior to its own people can become a matter of record around the world. There's a reason so many oppressive countries lock down things like photography and the Internet first - information is integral to their method of control. And more deeply, travelers help connect people in those countries back to the reality of what it means to be from our country. Photographers who interact with the locals in the places they visit can really do a lot of positive good in this world, I think.

 

Michael Middleton  - australia

Dove Lake, Morning - Island of Tasmania

 

 

Michael Middleton - Moai Statues on Easter Island, South Pacific

Moai Statues on Easter Island, South Pacific

 

 

 Michael Middleton - Geyser Eruption, Early Morning - Iceland

Geyser Eruption, Early Morning - Iceland

 

 

 

WE: Are there rules in other countries people need to be aware of about who or what you can or cannot shoot?

MM: Loads of them; anybody who is traveling would do well to go online or sit down with a travel guidebook and read up on local customs. I can't begin to list all of the possible restrictions here, but some examples are: prohibitions against photographing airports, bridges, government buildings and military installations (this is especially true in developing and oppressive countries), and it can get you in real trouble some places; privacy laws...you can't just go up to some guy on the street, stand two feet in front of him, and snap his picture, though you can photograph people in a public setting in a larger context (if some guy is standing in your shot of the Eiffel Tower, that's his problem); and religious or cultural restrictions, which vary from place to place. A lot of this is stuff you feel out as you become experienced as a traveler anyway.

 

 

 Michael Middleton - Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt

Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt

 

 

Michael Middleton - Ancient street, Island of Malta

Ancient street, Island of Malta

 

 

WE: Any tips you want to share?

MM: The best tip I ever received about photography is to always make sure you are looking all around you, because often you will be walking along in a city or on a trail and not realize that the best shot is right behind you. In addition, a lot of research before a trip helps to really save time and avoid
later disappointment by making sure that you know what to see and when, but a good portion of my best shots have come on random walks around whatever city, landscape or wilderness I was in. Setting aside a couple of hours for a photography-themed walk is probably one of the best habits to get in to because it forces you to think in terms of photography for a few hours, if you are not yet used to doing so all the time. And always carry far more film (or cards) and batteries than you think you will need. You hear this all the time but never appreciate it until it comes up, I think.

That said, I would like to impart a bit of advice from someone who has been all over the world: don't get too wrapped up in the belief that you have to go
all over the world to be a good or interesting photographer. You could shoot in your home town your entire career and still be a great photographer - in
fact, you will probably learn quicker that way because, in my experience, when things are no longer new and exotic to you, you have to work a bit harder
to find ways to get fulfilling photographs out of them.

 

 

Michael Middleton - Graffiti, Montreal

Graffiti, Montreal

 

Michael Middleton - Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

 

 

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

MM:  Just wanted to say thanks for the honor of being featured this month - I really love the mission inherent in this type of education, and I think that the
people who go through it will encounter a much more rich and meaningful world than they otherwise might have.

WE: Thanks so very much, Mike! Your work is incredible.


For more information, please see:
http://magnumoafus.com

and Michael's Blog, http://magnumoafus.blogspot.com/

 

All photos courtesy and copyright of Michael T Middleton.

Comments (1)

  • Dr. Debra Payne

    14 years 9 months ago

    Hi WE and Michael,

    Thanks for sharing. As someone who is struggling to learn how to do better photography, I think I have a growing appreciation for what it takes to produce shots like the ones in this article. Beautiful!

    Thanks for your insight, as well. 

    Yours truly,

    Debra Payne Chaparro, PhD (WE's "Wandering Editor")

     

     

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