Michael Napper : Suggestions of enchantment
Photography as an art and art through photography: Michael Napper, painter, sculptor and photographer of Los Angeles, use photography, to capture his primitive archetypal-shaped sculpture. He make a subtle use of black and white and a blur and create a sense of mistery around his art. This is not the kind of photography that grab you the eyes with the use of catchy contrasts and shapes. Everything is a suggestion, leaving the eye and mind of the viewer wandering through enchantment.
Can you shortly introduce yourself and how you started photography?
My name is Michael Napper, I live and work in Los Angeles. I am primarily a painter, but have always taken photographs. In the last few years, I have been focusing the photographs down more and more towards shooting primarily black and white (film).
Do you think it’s important to have good technical skills to be a good photographer?
I think it depends upon what type of work you want to produce. For me, my lack of technical training allowed me to try certain things with cameras, film and film developers that a person schooled in such things might not try. I basically have taught myself, in both painting and photography. In that search and struggle, I feel like my own personal voice has come through, rather than a voice filtered through someone else’s instructions and vision.
How would you describe your work and how to you choose the subject and places you will photograph?
The majority of my recent work is based around photographs of primitive archetypal-shaped sculptures (buildings, boats, etc) that I have built. They are primitive, hand-made, child-like, constructed from either found material or recycled material from my paintings or drawings.
You also paint how do you decide when to paint and when to photograph?
It’s a balance, one not easily found. I go through feverish periods where I photograph alot, then come to the end of a series, and oftentimes use imagery from that series in the paintings. One medium kind of suggests certain elements that I take to the other.
What are you trying to capture through photography?
I’d like the photographs to have the same vulnerability, the same tactile & fragile human quality that I feel my paintings and drawings have. I’d like them to have a certain emotional texture, suggestions of enchantment, a little mystery…to create a fictional little world that one may enter into, not to escape but to perhaps get an insight into one’s own self.
To the viewer of your work what feeling or impression would you like leave?
I’d like them to get a sense of beauty and enchantment from the photos, but a beauty and enchantment tinged with a certain sense of mortality.
Why do you choose to photograph mainly in black and white?
In my paintings and drawings, my use of color is very minimal and muted. I think too much color can distract and muddy the concept of a painting or drawing. I like the limitations of black and white photography, you have to have a stronger structure of the image in black and white, there’s no relying on color to compensate for something missing. And I love grey, I think of grey as the color of doubt, of loss, of yearning.
What material (camera and light) do you use?
I use a variety of cameras, both 35 mm and medium format. My favorites are Olympus OM-1n, Olympus Pen FT (half-frame camera), an Agfa Isolette medium format camera, and an ancient Agfa PD-16 Clipper camera, originally made for use with 116 film, a film that was slightly larger than 120 film but no longer made. I use 120 film in it through certain modifications, and there’s an otherwordly quality to the photos from such an old lens. I use both available light and flash, the flash usually modified with a home-made “snoot” to focus the light in a smaller area.
Right now are you working on a specific subject? If yes can you tell us more about?
At the moment I’m continuing to work on the series of constructed objects, building them and then photographing them. I think of the objects as things you might find in an only child’s room, or a Dunce’s laboratory. Something constructed by a persona with a strange mix of humility, euphoria, and madness.
I’m also starting to build up a series of “portraits”, but I use that term loosely. I’m not interested in realistically photographing people, I want to capture a blurred essence of them.
What are your main inspirations?
Artistically, I would have to say my favorite artists have usually come from Europe. Caspar David Friedrich from Germany, as well as Joseph Beuys. Antoni Tapies from Spain. Turner from Great Britain.
I’m also very influenced by literature, most notably the novels The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass, Hunger by Knut Hamsun, and Against Nature by J.-K. Huysmans, just to name a few. I see in the work that I’m doing now with photographing these scultpures and scenarios a direct link to the personas of these novels.
What do you look for in other photographers work?
A certain humility, an unflagging and at times painful acknowledgment of the human condition, a darkness, but leavened with a glint that life, for all its problems, is still all we have.
If you could invite 3 photographers or artist at a dinner who would it be and why?
Robert Frank, Louise Bourgeouis, and a little-known photographer named Miroslav Tichy.
Any young photographers or Flickr member which work you really like and that you would like us to discover?
Here are a few of my favorites:
www.flickr.com/photos/carlha/ www.flickr.com/photos/lb13/ www.flickr.com/photos/bretblatt/
www.flickr.com/photos/8103930@N04/ www.flickr.com/photos/edoardo_pasero/ www.flickr.com/photos/f777/
www.flickr.com/photos/guybatey/ www.flickr.com/photos/87941120@N00/ www.flickr.com/photos/efo/
www.flickr.com/photos/maguaphotos/ www.flickr.com/photos/poda/ www.flickr.com/photos/parallax-e-/
www.flickr.com/photos/bertilsud/ www.flickr.com/photos/74255566@N00/ www.flickr.com/people/yourec/
Michael Thank You.
Interview by Frankie
Michael Napper paintings and drawings can be viewed at the website of the Los Angeles gallery d.e.n. contemporary art