Michael has spent his years capturing the still image of people, cultures, and landscapes from around the world, to around the block, with a very unique and distinctive style. A native Californian, Michael resides in Los Angeles, though equally at home trudging through Redwood forests, riding the rails deep into Siberia, or navigating the chaotic streets of Tokyo. He photographs with many types of cameras and film, from a clunky toy camera to the latest digital model, using each as a tool for a specific use. Yes, he’s that guy at the airport having his bags rifled through by confused security personnel, unable to comprehend as to why anyone would be carrying so much stuff.
Michael’s fine art imagery has garnered recognition from the International Photography Awards, the Prix de la Photographie in Paris, Photographers Forum and Critical Mass. His imagery has been published in Black & White, Seities, Square, Blur, Adore Noir, Fraction, and Diffusion Annual, as well as high profile photography blogs and sites like Lenscratch and Light Leaked and continues to exhibit his prints internationally. Michael has also been an active Board Member for the L.A. chapter of the American Photographic Artists since 2006, and is a Contributing Editor at Blur Magazine.
The wisest words Michael ever gleaned from his father were to do what you love as your life’s work. Truer words have never been spoken.
I am inherently flawed. Deeply and irrevocably. I always have been, and I always will be. I try, make mistakes, and often fail, but not without learning something from them. Without these flaws I would not be able to properly create the images you see in this collection, as they are representative of myself as a photographic artist and as a human being. I strive to create images that are a flip side to the perfectly composed, digitally created and retouched photographs seen in ads and the covers of magazines. My art can be recognized by a timeless and ethereal quality where the imperfections of the subject, camera, or technique are often highlighted as an integral part of the image.
A large portion of the photographs here are from my two largest bodies of work, An Enduring Grace, created with long expired Polaroid materials that produce inconsistent and unpredictable results, and Vignette, created using cheap plastic toy cameras with plastic lenses that bring about softer, more unrefined looking photographs.
The use of outdated Polaroid film has been the perfect vehicle for constructing the framed and fractured reflections of many of my travels. Over time I have been able to predict and guide the unpredictable nature of this process, yet never maintaining a perfect handle on the outcome. A natural frame exists within each photograph, and within that frame a more organic and meandering texture or weakness. Once again, I am reflected within its contents.
The square photographs made with toy cameras, specifically the Chinese manufactured Holga camera, engage the use of one of the simplest of photographic tools made. Little control over exposure, and an inaccurate viewfinder require an innate ability to predict and compose the moments captured. Inaccuracy and lack of control are the hallmarks of my being.
No one person is not without needed improvement, and I am forever a work-in-progress. My images embrace, expose, and mirror the fact that I, like everyone, remain imperfect… and most certainly, flawed.
All limited edition prints are archival pigment prints using Ultrachrome K3 inks on Epson papers and are individually printed by Michael Kirchoff. Title, numbered, signed au verso in pencil.
Image size on 17” x 22” paper approximately 14” x 18” edition of 10 $600 unframed/$750 framed
Image size on 17” x 17” paper approximately 14” x 14” edition of 10 $600 unframed/$750 framed
Image size on 24” x 30” paper approximately 20” x 25” edition of 4 $1350 unframed/1800 framed
Image size on 24” x 24” paper approximately 20” x 20” edition of 4 $1350 unframed/1800 framed
An Enduring Grace is an ongoing project based on my exploration of the cultural landscape of Russia, as well as its surrounding countries and former territories that have seen its continuing influence. The images are a fulfillment of distant childhood curiosities of Russia, then the Soviet Union, as a place very few people seemed to know much about. I remember watching black and white television in my room and seeing news reporters broadcasting from the center of Red Square in Moscow. That image of St. Basil’s Cathedral behind the reporter reminded me more of Disneyland rather than the evil empire of which he spoke. It was difficult to understand the contradiction between the harsh ideas Americans had of Russia and the whimsical nature of what I was seeing on television. I now satisfy my curiosity by traveling there, and capture these dramatic scenes with the same feeling of wide-eyed wonderment I had felt as a youth, mimicking the visions of my earliest ideas of Russia. I have been entirely caught up in the beauty and scope of this amazing land, and have been rewarded with a culture that preserves its heritage and landscape so dearly held by its people. An impressive thread of history runs through Russia that never seems to have been forgotten.
I believe these images require mystery from deep shadow to portray the unclear ideas of my youth, and my chosen artistic process to give them the gritty texture and depth they so deserve. With this process I also strive to strip away much of the realism and highlight the surreal qualities of my early dreamlike notions. These are the expectations that were not always so clear and contain a perspective slightly askew of monuments on a grand scale. The framed and fractured photographs of An Enduring Grace are born from my childhood mind’s eye, and respect a land where the strength and character of its people are also reflected in the landscape, cathedrals, and memorials to its fallen soldiers.
The intent of this work is to capture people and places throughout the world, suspended in their very own place in time, with a feeling both personal and relatable. The driving force behind each frame addresses our ideas of memory and history. We see a little of our friends, our family, and ourselves within the context of these simple and ethereal images, and inject our own thoughts within them. Inspiration and concept comes in the form of this definition from the world of theater: “Vignettes are short impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a trenchant impression about a character, an idea, or a setting.” This is the real world theater that I endeavor to contain within each still image. There remains a timelessness that the viewer can look back at over and over again with no tangible aspect to date the image or the “vignette” contained therein.
The use of the Holga toy camera brings about a process of using the simplest of tools to help in concentrating on the composition and content of each moment. No batteries, dials, buttons, bells or whistles of modern digital technology to distract. Merely line of sight and a single click of the shutter is all I want between myself and the subject, nothing more. As an ongoing body of work, “Vignette” will never truly be finished, unless the theater of daily life were to cease… and that is what I like most about it.