Welcome back to Doin' Work: Flash Interviews With Contemporary Photographers. This is a place for me to celebrate the photographers who inspire me, and to present to you an easily digestible bite of their personalities and work.
This week's guest is Michelle Groskopf. Groskopf is a street photographer based in Los Angeles. She's made a practice of shooting the world around her almost daily for the past 20 years. Her work has been featured in The British Journal Of Photography, American Photo Magazine, Refinery 29, Dazed and Confused, Vice.com, Booooooom, The Heavy Collective, It's Nice That and more. Her themes revolve around tween/teen culture, girlhood and suburban ideology/iconography. Michelle is represented by INSTITUTE Artist.
Where do you live and work and how does it inform your photography?
I live and work in Los Angeles. I moved here on a whim after 15 years in NY and it immediately became my muse. I love it here. The light, the diversity of people and landscapes. It's a very special city.
How long have you been making pictures?
I first began taking photos when I was 15 thanks to my high school art teacher. Then I went on to take photos regularly for years without really telling anyone. It wasn't till I was around 37 that I began taking my work seriously enough to really pursue it professionally.
If you had to explain your work to a child, how would you describe it?
I've gone and built a time machine back to my childhood. I'm turning my memories into photographs, memories I have of being a kid growing up in the suburbs. I'm recreating familiar feelings and faces using strangers I see on the street when I walk around.
Do you make a living as a photographer? If yes, please explain how. If no, please tell me about your day job and how you balance photography with said job.
As an artist I feel beholden to myself. I'm shooting tons of very personal work and it thrills me. It's why folks tend to label me as prolific. It's nice when it thrills other people but above all it thrills me. I relish this moment in time for the freedom it affords me. But I'm also fortunate in that I'm signed by INSTITUTE Artist and have that professional level of support behind my convictions. That level of support has me very excited for what's to come and open to all possibilities.
Show me your signature image.
That's hard for me. I'm building this suburban world for myself which is built up on many images. I'm currently in love with this one though.
Name three contemporary photographers that blow your mind.
Tammy Mercure is an amazing photographer and curator. She stands so firmly on behalf of Female photographers. She's wonderfully brave with an impassioned eye for stories and the best inside people.
Shawn Theodore blows my mind. He brings history, painting, style and politics into his street photography in a way that feels effortless. I'm always so impressed by what he manages to do with a single person and a wall.
Rosalind Fox Soloman. She is a walking poet. Her work is incredible. So much empathy and heart. And she got started later in life. I really relate to that.
What frustrates you about photography?
I think street photography is ready for a change. It needs to open its dusty doors to a more diverse group of storytellers. I would love to see different styles and approaches celebrated. Our reverence, no matter how worthy, for the same ten white men and the same set of rules is starting to feel old fashioned to me. Let's shake it up. Different perspectives make everything more relevant, contemporary and interesting.
How do you procrastinate?
There's a negative connotation to procrastination that I hate. Working steadily without reflection is unhealthy. It's important to spend down moments daydreaming and imagining. I love doing nothing. My best ideas come from that place. I'm also an avid reader, have been my whole life and I lift weights daily.
What's your definition of creative success?
Getting to that place where you really love yourself and how you see the world. Being celebrated for your singular vision, not for towing the status quo. Being surrounded by a community of peers you respect.
Aside from photography, what else is of great importance in your life?
My girlfriend and fellow photographer Sasha Tivetsky. Our home life has evolved into a place where we share ideas and push each other and support each other's work. We go on photo road trips together. We're always up to some trouble. I've never been surrounded by so much love, creativity and support. It's fed my work in so many unexpected ways. I'm so grateful.
What do you think the future of photography might look like?
Describe the challenge of getting a shot without the subject knowing.
It's not a challenge, it's the very thrill of it.
Dogs or cats? Why?
Dogs. This one is mine.