Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Michael McGraw - Photographer

Michael McGraw

Michael McGraw
FB: My Page

Michael McGraw is a Minneapolis-based photographer, mainly self-taught, though he has studied under some awesome wedding photographers. Having retired from the wedding photography business, people rarely make an appearance in his photographs.

"My subjects are local, personal, and natural. I look for subjects with a balance of pattern and chaos, beauty and flaws. To me, this reflects internal struggle, growth, and transformation."

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?

I am working on a couple projects right now. I have a series of cloud photographs that I think are really fun. They are fairly closely-cropped shots of sections of clouds exploring color, density, and shape. I have a hard time deciding if I prefer color or black and white for these images.

I am also processing hundreds of pics from a recent trip to Iceland. Seeing the floating ice in the glacial lake, Jokulsarlon, was one of the most amazing experiences I have had.

Past projects include a study of ice formations on the Mississippi river from the Lowry bridge, which is on hold for now since the bridge was torn down, and a study of urban trees--Crab Apples, Russian Olive, and Buck Thorn. I am still woking on this project, but am taking a break after 2 years of thinking about trees all the time.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

After meeting a couple times with an advisor with Springboard for the Arts in lowertown St. Paul, they told me to print large, and if I didn't have good enough equipment, then to get better equipment.

At the time I was shooting aerial-like photographs of ice on the Mississippi river and printing them at around 16x20 inches, maybe a little bigger. They just did not have the impact I was going for until I began printing 20x30 inches and larger. Of course, not all photographs have to be large; I still have a weakness for a nice, small, intimate portrait.

Tell me about your working space and your creative process?

As a nature-based photographer, I work outside, usually around North Minneapolis. I prefer my work to be as locally focused as possible and do not think I need to head to the Boundary Waters to get a good shot of a tree. Dowling Avenue is perfect for me because of all the varieties of crab apple trees lining the Crystal Lake Cemetary.

I have a home office where I do all of my computer work, converting RAW photos to JPG. I share this space with my wife, Sally, so we get to spend a lot of time together working on our own projects.

I have a studio space in the Northrup King Building in NE Mpls that I share with Megan Bell Honigman who is an amazing painter. It's really nice to have a permanent space to hang my work since there is just too much to hang in my house. I definitely recommend renting a studio space for anyone with a lot of work to show.

In regards to my creative process...I like to drive around until I see an interesting tree, stop, and see what happens. I play around with selective focus by standing really close to the trees and using a long lens to create a shallow depth of field. It's a pretty meditative process, very peaceful. I never really know what is going to look good until I look at the images on my computer. I usually crop my tree photos square so I get to fine-tune my composition once I get home.

Which Minnesota artists do you enjoy?

The list would definitely be too long if I named everybody. Just paging through the NEMAA (arts association) directory or through would remind me of dozens of artists that I enjoy. But to name a few I would include--

Lindsy Halleckson (painter),
Maren Kloppman (ceramics),
Caitlin Karolczak (painter),
Theresa Handy (painter),
Alyssa Wendorf (watercolor),

and then photographers--
Meg Ojala,
Terry Evans,
Joann Verburg

I am learning about so many more Minnesota artists through this site that this question is really getting difficult. I click on all of the links in the other interviews and it has really expanded my view of art in Minnesota, but those listed above has been long-time favorites of mine.

If I were to follow you around on an “art day” in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?

We would start at Midway Contemporary Art, head to SooVac, the Walker Art Center, the Weinstien Gallery in south Mpls, and then to the Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program (MAEP) Gallery in the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

If we had two art days, I would make sure to get to the artist buildings in NE Mpls. My studio is in the Northrup King Building (#274), so we would start there. There is so much art to see at NKB and the surrounding buildings too, like Altered Esthetics in the Q'Arma Bldg. It would also be fun to head to the Fraconia Sculpture Park north of the Twin Cities.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

These days, I find out about new artists through Facebook. People's Facebook pages link to blogs and websites, and then people's blogrolls direct me to other artists and art resources.

SpotArt Gallery shows a lot of new and local art each month, and throws an awesome reception, too, so I always check out their website to see which artists are exhibiting next.

Because I have been so locally focussed for the LAI website, I haven't really looked at websites that feature artists from anywhere else in the world. is a great place to start to find out about Minnesota artists. And http:/ and its Facebook page are also good sources.

Do you have any exhibits or any interesting things going on in your life or coming up in the near future (2011)?

I have an exhibit at the Coloplast Headquarters in North Minneapolis. They are hugely dedicated to art in their space and purchased many, many pieces from Minneapolis artists when they built this building. Their conference rooms all have hanging systems built in and lots of natural light. It's not open to the public, so good luck seeing the work, but if you work there, check my out on the second floor by the engineers.

And each year I exhibit in my studio (#274) in the Northrup King Building for Art-A-Whirl which is the 3rd weekend in May each year, and at Art-Attack which is the 2nd full weekend in November.

Michael McGraw
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