Interview with Michael Potts, LICC Winner in SHOOT (Photo/video) in the Non-Professional category, explains his creative approach and his worries about photography becoming overly digitalized and possibly losing the personality of the photographers.
Tell us a little about your background. How did your love of photography grow?
I started in high school with film and dark room, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to invest in digital early on and didn’t have access to my own dark room, so I would just do some landscapes when I traveled, but didn’t really have any way to edit them.
Then in 2015 I attended a workshop in France hosted by Jock Sturges, and that week completely changed my life. I learned how to properly work with digital, Lightroom, and I discovered that I actually had a talent in the art world after all. I’ve been making pictures ever since and I just love doing it, both for myself, and for others.
What merits do you see in being Winner in Shoot (photo/video)? What does receiving this award personally mean to you?
Naturally I’m thrilled, and perhaps still a little stunned. I’ve been entering contests hosted by the Farmani Group for four or five years now, and I’ve gotten various honorable mentions, a couple of bronzes, couple of golds
even, but to win a category…never would’ve guessed that would ever happen. I don’t know what it will allow me to do that I haven’t before or what attention it might get me that I haven’t had before, but it’s always nice to know one’s work is appreciated.
What steps do you take in the creative process, and what tools do you use?
I’m not sure there’s any one answer for that, but it probably has a lot to do with whatever it is I’m shooting. If I am photographing kids I just wind them up and let them run. If I am hiring models I try to come up with something that might be moderately interesting or different for them, usually based on something that has interested me be it a medium, a material, something related to the look of the model, it just depends.
For the underwater work it’s a little bit of a combination because mostly I use children, so I just let them play and catch as many frames as I can and then when I go through them I wait for the picture to speak to me and tell me it’s the right one to edit.
Best in SHOOT (Photo/video): “Dreamtime” by Michael Potts
Where do you find your inspiration and motivation for your work?
My favorite subject is children because they are so raw and honest and fairly uninhibited in their actions and movements and energy. I love being able to interact with my subjects, to see or hear their reaction to the work we make, and to see and hear the reactions from others once it’s completed is part of what keeps me going I think.
What impact do you believe your own culture and environment have had on your creative vision both personally and professionally?
I live in a fairly civilized bubble so I suspect that’s why most of my work is looking for peaceful, or sometimes chaotic, beauty, the former because much of my existence is fairly peaceful, and the latter, because even living in peace a little bit of chaos can be attractive and beautiful. I rarely try to make statements or do straight up journalism, at least at present. I mostly just try to make beautiful pictures.
Tell us about a project that you feel has been your most successful achievement.
My underwater series, Dreamtime, is easily my most successful as a whole. It has won the most awards, sold the most prints, and received the most positive feedback over any other body of work, although in part, that’s probably because it’s the one I have the most organized and the most visible.
Which photographers and designers in your industry do you most admire, and why?
Top of the list has to be Jock Sturges, both because his style and his philosophical approach is the one I find most appealing. I also like work by Sally Mann, Alain Laboile, and Niki Boon. I would like to do work like Michael Kenna and Hengki Koentjoro. I’m also intrigued by Jan Saudek.
What do you believe to be the current significant possibilities and problems in your field?
I think with Photoshop (and similar programs) the possibilities are endless, and only limited by one’s imagination. I’m perhaps in the middle group of people that see digital photography as just as legitimate as film and darkroom (I’ve had the benefit of using both), but while I am curious to see what people use AI for I am a little bit skeptical. I think we may end up seeing a lot of people lean on it and so the work they create won’t be “creative“ because it’ll be too much AI and not enough them. There are alsothe issues of plagiarism or using somebody’s work as a basis to create something else without their permission.
The other problem is, of course, with everybody carrying a camera on their phone. Everybody is now a photographer so it has diluted the medium and as such I think it’s harder to find that handful of people that are really good at making really good pictures and truly meaningful work.
What are you working on right now, if you could give us a sneak peek?
I’m trying to figure out what my next project is going to be. I have a couple of possibilities, but I haven’t really had anything congeal yet.
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