Photographs and writings by Michael Kirchoff
Michael Kirchoff 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 why anyone would be carrying so much stuff.
In preparation for his exhibition, Flawed, on view at Photo Méthode Gallery during May and June, he shares two bodies of works and his writings with our aether readers.
Imperfections recognized by a timeless and ethereal quality
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.
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.
Vignette within each still image . . . the real world theater
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.
An Enduring Grace born from my childhood mind’s eye
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.
Michael Kirchoff’s fine art imagery has garnered recognition from the International Photography Awards, the Prix de la Photographie in Paris, Photographers Forum, and Critical Mass. Michael has also been an active Board Member for the Los Angeles chapter of the American Photographic Artists since 2006 and is a Contributing Editor at Blur Magazine.