Sunday, September 26, 2010

Michael Kirchoff

What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?


Even though I’m the sole artistic member of my family I’ve always had a curiosity with art and photography. Come to think of it, it’s that curiosity that still remains and continues to keep me inspired. Creating a tangible piece of art from nothing more than your desire and vision is an incredible and powerful thing. You have a vision and you know how you want the work to be, but the journey in between is always a bit of a question mark. Trying to figure out that question mark is what keeps me coming back for more. Since I was a child I’d always had a camera of some sort, but it was when my father brought home an early SX-70 Polaroid Land camera that I became hopelessly addicted. Looking back I think I must have driven my parents nuts from constantly asking where another box of film could be found. I didn’t have any money of my own back then, so they were always going broke from my new found love. I was amazed at its ability to make the real world so much more interesting by infusing my own creative vision into it. It’s ironic to me that my early days consumption of Polaroid rivals my current obsession with instant film, even though the accessibility has changed dramatically the last few years. My high school years brought me to the darkroom, and it was there that I knew I was in for life. In school I had always done painting, sculpture, drawing, and other artistic pursuits, but it was seeing that image appear on paper in a developer bath that hit me like a ton of bricks.

My photographic work continues mostly because of my love for taking the worlds reality and creatively putting my own personal spin on it. Taking the three-dimensional world and putting it into a two dimensional space with your vision is an addicting process. Not only this but the tools or techniques are often changing, and it’s this change that makes for so many opportunities to explore new ways to create art. You’ll find me using these words over and over again, but really, I’m passionately addicted to creative pursuits.

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?


Take the time to self evaluate your images. It’s difficult to distance yourself sometimes from your work, as personal experiences from making the image can often obscure the value of the photograph within a body of work. Put the work together and look at it as a whole, and be in love with what you are creating Know what your work is about and know that learning to edit your imagery is key. A well rounded and inspired body of work needs to be accomplished before any real marketing or promotion of the images is sought. Once you know that you are showing your very best work and your very best prints you will have a great start. Stick to what you believe in with your work and stand behind it faithfully during its promotion.

I have to say that building and expanding your network of others in the industry is extremely vital. It seems to be easier these days to alert the world of your images with all of the social networking tools out there now. However, the personal relationships you make with individuals in the real world are what will move you further and faster than anything else. Joining photographic groups and organizations like Center, APA, and ASMP with like-minded people to share knowledge and ideas is a key component. Knowledge of the business of photography will come from this as well. Attend exhibit openings and lectures, talk with others about what they are doing, and above all, be supportive of your fellow artists. What goes around comes around is very true in this aspect. These relationships will be the foundation for every move you make while you strive to attain your goals in the industry.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?


Hmmmm…. achieving status as a successful anything makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It sort of sounds like you’re at a plateau with what you do. Success is rather subjective and not so easily defined in the art world. I’d hate to sit back and rest on my laurels with what I’ve done, rather I want to keep hammering away at making new work and keeping myself intrigued with the artistic process. As long as I’m continuing to work in this field I will personally feel successful, though others may think that fame and money are essential to your success. I think my status as a passionate and dedicated photographer would sound much better!

The steps taken are far more important than the status level you could achieve. So much depends on your level of commitment and the effort you put forth to feed that need. The steps have been many, but a couple of important ones are rooted in the answer to the last question. Most certainly my relationships with others have been truly important to my success. I have to note as well, though I’ve done certain steps in my career to achieve what I have, the steps never go away and will continually be something that I work on without fail. Completing them once does not mean that it’s over and I can move on to something else. Momentum does build up, but you always have to be looking at what else is it that I could be doing.

I’m always shooting something new, and have adopted the process of getting a finished work out there as soon as possible. I may sit on an image or a body of work for a long time before I consider it done, but when I do, I get it out there and tell as many people about it as possible. It’s tough, but hitting the ground running goes a long way when you’re excited about your own imagery. It also keeps your name out there; you definitely don’t want to get lost in the throng of other artists out there. I’m always writing emails, knocking on doors, and ringing that bell in the town square, if you know what I mean. Being coy doesn’t get you very far with so much competition out there.

Know what to say about your work, especially with describing its purpose or your reasons for doing it at all. Speaking and writing about yourself and your work is quite mandatory, especially in the fine art world. I’ll admit that it can be difficult for many artists to do this, including myself, but it is quite necessary. A well-written artist statement goes a long way. You simply cannot go far by “letting the work speak for itself.” I’m continually writing and re-writing statements about myself and the individual bodies of work.

The bottom line is that your audience is out there; you just have to work extremely hard to find it. Perseverance is essential.

St. Patrick's Cathedral #2, Dublin, Ireland, from the series Cross + Stone

Ruins Arch, Kilfenora, Ireland, from the series Cross + Stone

Above Paris, from the series Vignette

Chimney Sweep, Listvyanka, Siberia, from the series Vignette

Monk's Quarters, from the series Vignette

Maarjamäe War Menorial, Tallinn, Estonia, from the series An Enduring Grace

Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia, from the series An Enduring Grace

Naval Cathedral, Kronstadt, Russia, from the series An Enduring Grace

Hindu Temple, from the series Los Angeles Study

Union Station, from the series Los Angeles Study

© copyright all images Michael Kirchoff

About this Blog

Two Way Lens is a project designed to inform and inspire emerging photographers wanting to focus their creative output in a way that enhances their chances of finding an audience, being included in exhibitions and ultimately achieving gallery representation. The journey from inspired artist to successful artist is one that is often difficult to negotiate and hard to control. On these pages, I will feature the experiences and opinions of other photographers who I have found inspiring, and hopefully the knowledge they have built in their own experiences will be valuable to all of us finding our own way to sharing our creativity with the wider world.