Last week Brayden and I dodged puddles on our way to visit photographer Michael Hauptman in his Nolita apartment. There we discussed his OC online editorial
, his recent trip to India, and his book, Notes on, Something LIke Life Should Be.
Gillian Tozer: So, how did you come about shooting the latest OC editorial?
It was a long time coming actually. OC Online's Rory Satran
and I had been going back and forth for maybe a year, discussing what I could do for Opening Ceremony. And then they started the editorial section
, which suited me perfectly.
GT: Cool. Obviously we’ve all seen the result and it’s beautiful, but how did the shoot go?
Thank you. It was a lot of fun. I’ve only just recently gone out on my own—like a year and a couple months ago—and since then I’ve been doing a lot of portraits for Dazed and Confused
and T Style
, and shooting bands for Beat
. So doing the OC editorial was only the second proper fashion story that I’ve ever shot. It made me want to do a lot more fashion because it was so much fun. Annabelle was so sweet and there was such a nice vibe. It could’ve been a total disaster; we shot it on Halloween and only two days before there was that freak blizzard. It was around the mid-50s when we shot it.
GT: Yikes! So the editorial aside, what’s it like being a photographer in New York at the moment, fresh out from underneath Richard Burbridge’s wing?
It definitely has its ups and downs. I was happy to stay with Richard as long as I did because my style is the antithesis of his—he’s so extremely technical, which is great. I admire Richard’s work ethic and his ability as a photographer, but I always felt confident that when I went out on my own I would never be a baby Burbridge.
These days, there are so many people doing the exact same thing—not just in photography but in every field. And it just feels like there is a complete over-stimulation because of the web. I just try to focus on who I am, what I want to get across, and what I feel. I believe that’s the only thing you can really do to separate yourself.
GT: Did you have your own aesthetic going into the assisting role, or did it develop over time?
No, it developed over time. I never wanted to rush things and it took me a long time to figure out my aesthetic and myself. The most important [aspect] of my photography is that it is a total reflection of who I am as a person, whether it's a drawing or a photograph. So I took my time developing my style. I think over the four years I worked for Richard that really came to fruition.
GT: Do you shoot on film as a way to differentiate yourself from other photographers?
I just feel most comfortable with film. Digital is so expensive: I don’t have $30,000 at my disposal to get the same results as Richard, for example. A big thing for me is the ISO—the speed of the film—and that’s something that digital still lacks. You still can’t shoot that fast on digital without it really compromising the image quality. So it’s not even so much a conscious choice, more of a "you gotta do what you gotta do" kind of thing.
GT: And the painting over the images and abstract light releases...
This is something I started doing when I was I was 16 years old. One of the first books I ever owned was The Journal of Dan Eldon.
He was a photojournalist who grew up in Africa and kept an illustrative journal. It sounds cliché but this book changed my perspective on a lot of stuff.
GT: Totally! I really believe that the books you have as a child always come back to you.
Yeah, it’s nice to have that. So I started keeping illustrated journals as a result. I’ve always found it extremely therapeutic. [Drawing] is a process unlike photography because moments can be a lot more inward when you’re just sitting cross-legged on the ground doing your little painting. I never thought I would share these paintings with anyone, and then two and a half years ago I realized I had such an abundance of work that it was about time [to publish it].
GT: And so your publication, Notes On, Something Like Life Should Be, is the result of your journals?
Yeah, essentially. A lot of the work was done over the past four years but some of it goes back, I don’t know, maybe six or seven years, so some of it is quite old. The book was the first instance of me feeling comfortable sharing that type of work and my process with other people.
GT: And you recently traveled to India, did you take any nice photos?
MH: Yeah, it was constant stimulation. India is the type of place where there’s so much to see and so much going on that I had trouble going to bed or closing my eyes because it was all so beautiful—the colors, the people, the sheer population—it’s insane. Everywhere you look there’s somebody doing something, whether it’s a guy taking a pee or spinning yarn, it’s just incredible.
GT: Do you think you’ll make a book of your travels to India?
MH: Yes, I have a bunch of ideas and now I’m just whittling them down. I’ve wanted to travel to India for a long time: I actually grew up in this funny small town in Iowa and went to this little private school that was founded on Eastern philosophy. I grew up learning about Indian spirituality and took Sanskrit classes...
GT: In Iowa?!
[Laughs] Yeah, in Iowa of all places! It’s pretty random how it ended up in Iowa, but it did. My family moved there when my mom was pregnant with me. I’ve always been interested [in Indian culture], and connecting the dots between their philosophy and spirituality.
Photos by Brayden Olsen. View the online editorial here and flick through Michael's book here.