Winner’s Circle: Mike Emery

Our July Photo Contest‘s theme was CONTRAST, and we received some awesomely abstract high-contrast entries. Mike Emery‘s second-place winner, however, was by far the most abstract and confounding, so of course we fell in love with it. We asked Mike a few questions about how he created this image and how this image relates to his photography as a whole for this month’s edition of Winner’s Circle.

Photo by Mike Emery
Mike Emery’s second-place winner

MPEX: We spent a long time trying to figure out what your second-place winner was a photo of, and we never came to any satisfying conclusions. Where did you snap this photo and what is it?

Mike Emery: I get this kind of response a lot with this image, so don’t feel bad. The image was taken inside the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia. My wife and I used to live in Philly and would often go to the venue to see the Philadelphia Orchestra play.

Photo by Mike Emery
Photo by Mike Emery

How did you capture this image? Was it shot on film?

It was shot on Ilford HP5 Plus black and white film with a 50mm lens using the first camera I ever bought, a Canon Rebel. *sighs and remembers nostalgically*

The Kimmel Center is such an awesome venue. The juxtaposition of the outside of the auditorium (the dark area) with the roof (the black and white area) really stood out to me. I had to find a way to capture it! I am really happy with the way the photo turned out.

Photo by Mike Emery
Photo by Mike Emery

We love the geometric patterns in this photo, how it created mystery but never lost its intrigue. Is this photo indicative of the kinds of photos you normally take? Or was this photo a deviation from your normal style?

I wouldn’t say it was indicative of the photos I normally take. Or, that I really have an overriding style to deviate from. What I will say is that I went through a phase of capturing this type of image when I just started out in photography and while attending a series of black and white film photography/darkroom classes run by Tsuyoshi Ito, owner and program director of Project Basho and ONWARD, an international photography competition for emerging photographers. Tsuyoshi challenged the class to “open our eyes”, be expressive, and create impactful images that explored the subject in a non-typical way.

Photo by Mike Emery
Photo by Mike Emery

How long have you been taking photos? Is it a part-time hobby, a full-time gig, or something in between?

I have been taking photos since I attended the Project Basho classes in 2005. I started out exclusively working with black and white film. I just love the simplicity of this style. For a while, I was also part of a black and white/darkroom photography cooperative in Columbus until it ceased to exist due to dwindling numbers. You can blame the digital age for that! In true Luddite fashion, it took me a while to convert to digital photography. I even went so far as to incorporate a darkroom in my basement. Finally though, in 2008, I purchased my first digital SLR camera and now have lots of family photos and images of places we have traveled together. So many family photos, in fact, that my 3 (and ¾ (that’s very important, you know))-year-old son refuses point blank to have his photo taken by daddy anymore. While photography is really a “part-time” hobby for me, you would think otherwise given the amount of time I spend taking and processing images. My family certainly does.

What recent photo have you taken that you really like?

Photo by Mike Emery
Photo by Mike Emery

While this is technically not a recent photo, it is a photo that I recently re-discovered while archiving and scanning some old black and white negatives. I have entered it into the 2013 Black and White Magazine single image contest, the results of which will be out in October. This photo embodies what I feel is important about photography, especially black and white photography. It’s simple, impactful, and emotive. I look at it and ask myself, “What are they both thinking?” especially as they are at opposite ends of the spectrum of life.

See more of Mike’s work here!

Midwest Photo

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