Mike didn't just start making double exposure photos with literary influence and deep sociological/ecological meaning overnight though. As he states, "I guess my story is kind of interesting in that I started in photography because I was working on environmental campaigns and someone gifted me a digital camera, a Nikon D3100, to work with on a campaign. At the time I was still a musician as well, and with that same camera, I started making some artistic photos for a music project that I had. When I decided I didn't really want to do music anymore, I just kept doing photography." Mike says that he took a Lightroom class with Mark Fitzgerald at Newspace because he needed to learn how to edit the photos he was taking. And then he found himself taking more classes at Newspace.
One class was about visual storytelling with Charles Purvis, who Mike then ended up sharing a studio with. Around the same time, he ended up getting a 4 x 5" camera thanks to a Tintype class. "It was very organic growth. I feel that the gear that I've had throughout the course of my life just come into my life at the appropriate time," says Mike. Charles was the one who suggested that maybe Mike start shooting some film with his 4 x 5" camera and that became his introduction to film photography. "Charles said, 'you know, shooting on 4 x 5" film is pretty challenging. And you might learn something if you try it.' And I did try it. And I learned a lot. It is pretty challenging and what it did for me was force me to take a step back and really understand the very fundamental elements of a camera and how it works," Mike explains. As Mike spent more time thinking and slowly making images, it changed his perception of things. "I didn't go to art school. I don't have an academic background in art at all, so I missed a lot of the steps that some people have. It also changed the way that I shoot, because it really slowed me down and it made me really consider what I was doing and think about what I was shooting."
"So my 4 x 5" is a Linhof Master Technika, " says Mike. "It's a field camera, it's one of the 'little' 4 x 5" cameras. My early work was all shot on a Graflex 4 x 5", just a Crown Graphic that I had for a number of years. Then I bought the Linhof a couple of years ago. This guy was selling it for super cheap. He was a professional studio photographer, and he had bought it in the nineties, around the time when digital was starting to catch up with film in terms of quality, so he transitioned over to digital and he never really used the Linhof." The Linhof he bought had everything to go with it. It was a collector's dream, with the official Linhof case, four lenses, the body and all the extra Linhof bells and whistles. "I'm not a collector, so it's not things that I would necessarily use or collect, but all the functional stuff that came with it is awesome. And it's really awesome to have different lenses. The problem that I have with the Graflex I had, is that it only had one lens. So I was stuck shooting from the same distance every time," says Mike about scoring his Linhof.