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Sketch Pad

Mike Floyd
A thing for reality
by Kathy Anderson

year in Indonesia showed Mike Floyd the world outside his hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho. Then, after four years of college in Rochester, N.Y., he spent two years working in Yosemite National Park. Mike's been in Portland since 1993. The smiling mug shot is courtesy of his friend, Tom Hussey.

Talking pictures
Photography is a vehicle Mike Floyd rides to go where he may otherwise have no reason to be.

"I learned early that if you have a camera in your hand," he said, "you can talk your way into places that you might not get into without it."

"Indonesian baby with cat"

A camera is also Mike's medium of choice because he has "a thing for reality."

"It's incredible what's out there," he said.

"With photography I can capture that reality far more accurately than I was ever able to do with any other art form.

"That and because I am a crappy painter and can't draw."

Ifs, ands or butts
More often than not, Mike's subject matter presents itself to him, rather than him choosing it.

"I tend to shoot what I respond to, be it nature or nudes or street scenes," he said. "I spend a lot of time wandering, almost always with a camera, and my photos are usually souvenirs of that wandering."

"Leslie – curves"

The equipment Mike uses to capture those mementos depends on the subject matter and how the photos will be used.

"It also depends on what kind of equipment I have with me at the time," he said, "and if I'm feeling lazy or not."

Mike shot his Mt. St. Helens series with a Holga – a $20 plastic camera chosen because it weighs almost nothing.

"It's also so incredibly simple that you can't get caught up in the technical end of photography," he said. "It brings taking photos down to what you see and how you respond to it.

"I've used a lot of different equipment over the years just because I'm a bit of a gadget freak. It all comes and goes, getting traded or sold depending on how I like shooting with it. And if I can afford to eat or not."

Beauty within
Mike claims to have too many favorite artists to name, with most of them being documentary photographers who recorded their era on film.

"Hidden falls"

"It's fascinating to see what they thought was important enough to capture," he said.

"Edward Weston comes to mind because of his wonderful photographic exploration of his everyday life. And the fact that at one point he was being written up as one of the most influential photographers on the West Coast, but he couldn't pay his rent."

The influences on Mike's photography also are many and come from a variety of sources. Some of the most influential were the photographers in the National Geographic magazines he perused growing up.

"The exotic and adventurous photo essays these folks shot provided me with hours of daydreaming," he said.

Henri Cartier Bresson, Edward Steichen, Alfred Steiglitz, Ruth Bernhard and Imogene Cunningham inspired Mike with their photographs of the more familiar everyday world around us.

"Their ability to find beauty in our less-than-exotic daily lives inspires me to take a closer look as I go through my day," he said.

Into the woods
The world that Mike's been enjoying since the early days of camping with his family has had the biggest influence on his work.

"Dead trees at the South Fork of the Toutle River"

"My parents gave me a great appreciation for the outdoors," he said. "It's my time in the woods that gives me the desire to share the power of nature.

"Reality is definitely at the top of the list, too. Whether that can be labeled good or bad, I'm not sure. I am fascinated by everything that lies outside my door, be it nature or city streets."

Mike's series "The Blast Zone: Photographs of the devastation around Mt. St. Helens" has been shown at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, Calif., and the Ona Gallery in Portland.

Other past exhibits include: The Northwest Environmental Photography Exhibit in Seattle, Art a' la Carte in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., the Blair Street Art Festival in Silverton, Colo., "The Erotica Show" at Ona and "Explorations" at Talisman Gallery on Northeast Alberta.

Several of his photos are offered at Hunt & Gather, 1302 NW Hoyt, in Portland's Pearl District.

School daze
With both grandfathers being carpenters and his mom a "craft nut," there was always some kind of creative project going on in Mike's childhood home.

"We never really thought of it as art," he said. "It was just what we did for fun."

"The devilfish"

For as long as Mike can remember, his dad has had a basement darkroom, but it was his older brother's involvement in photography that caught his attention. Mike's photo habit showed up in high school, where he worked on the yearbook and school newspaper.

"I was trying to figure out where I belonged in the whole social scene," he said. "Photography helped me get into a lot of different situations with a wide variety of people. It helped to make my social circle a lot larger than it would have been otherwise."

Mike started taking photography seriously while on a student exchange program in Indonesia. He again saw how many people he could approach and how many doors opened because of the camera in his hand.

"I had the thought that people did this kind of thing for a living; that I could get paid to do what I was doing for fun," he said.

Mike earned his bachelor of science in professional photo illustration at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, then spent the decade after college trying to re-learn what photography is all about.

"Too much technical education can be a very bad thing in a situation like this," he said. "It starts to get in the way if you're not careful. It's what's in front of the camera, and your relationship to it, that is the most important. Some of the best photos I ever took were done years before college."

"Indonesian market woman"

Amazing graces
Mike's dream goal is to use his photographs to share some of the amazing places he's seen.

"I have been blessed with some wonderful adventures," he said, "and with a camera, I can share them with others.

"Photography is an astounding tool that can help educate, inspire and enlighten people.

"It can bring the remote world right into your living room; possibly even inspire people to get out and enjoy the world," he said.

Admitting that it may sound bit idealistic, Mike nonetheless believes this exposure can even help protect some of the beauty he's visited and photographed.

"It's what I have to work with, and I want to do what I can to save the places I enjoy."

E-mail Mike at mikfloyd@earthlink.net and check out his Web site. Find Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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