JANUARY/FEBRUARY FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER
For 2010 I will have a new “Featured Photographer” interview bi-monthly where I will interview talented photographers and display their work on this website. I am kicking it all off with 18 year old Megan Baker who happens to shoot with a Leica M8!
Megan Baker is an 18 year old photographer living in Chicago, IL. I first found out about her photography through facebook and soon realized that she not only shoots with a Leica M8, but she has shot in some of the same locations as me during her outings and road trips to find abandoned buildings. Amazing! After seeing her images I was floored by the haunting beauty of them and realized that I better get an interview with her now before she is crazy famous 🙂 She not only searches out and shoots old abandoned buildings in rural towns but she also photographs musicians. Her work is beautiful, soulful, and is full of emotion. True Art.
Hi Megan! I am thrilled to have you as the first featured photographer on my website. I have to say that when I saw your images I was hooked instantly. After you contacted me on facebook we realized that you have shot in some of the same places that I have and you shoot with a Leica M8! How old were you when you really got into photography, and what were your usual subjects?
I am glad to be your first featured photographer! I was around 3 or 4. My usual subjects were probably my toys, then I moved onto my pets. I usually dressed them in human clothing (against their will.)
What attracted you to the Leica M8? How long have you had it? Which lenses do you use and do you enjoy shooting a rangefinder camera?
I was getting tired of all the new DSLRs coming out that were all “This is so easy!” “It’ll do everything for you!” Where is the fun in that? They’re marketed to soccer moms. They’re made out of plastic… I was tired of it, I didn’t want to shoot with something like that. So I did some research on Leica, and I’m a big fan of history and preservation. Leica is timeless. The M8 is beautiful. It’s really hard to describe, but when I shoot with it, I’m not just holding a plastic thing that will be obsolete in a few years, snapping photos for me. I have a real camera, it just feels different. The other day I was riding around looking for shots with my mom, and she asked me why I couldn’t have an SLR (since it would be easier to zoom and everything like that) and I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was basically that when I shot with my old Nikon, a picture was a picture. Just a picture. With Leica, it’s different. There is soul… I can feel the grass blowing across the Midwestern field. It’s alive in my photos. There’s a whole other dynamic that the M8 has, that maybe not everyone can tell when they aren’t looking close enough… I think a good example of this is my ‘Stoutenborough’ photo.
I’ve had my M8 for a little over 2 years now. I was just thinking about that the other day, time goes by fast. I only have a summicron 50 mm now but I’m getting the summicron 35 mm soon. I’ve shot with the 28 mm f/2 a bit too.
I love shooting with a rangefinder camera. I’m more aware of my surroundings, more focused, and really paying attention to what I’m doing.
Yes, that Stoutenborough photo has that M8 magic but it also shows the skill of the photographer! Also, I am in love with the 50 Summicron right now. Great choice in lens! I love that you shoot these old abandoned buildings and rural scenes. What got you started doing that? I thought I was the only nut traveling to these tiny towns looking for these oddball locations!
Well, when I was about 14, I got kicked out of school. Some people told me that telling the story would probably alienate a Christian audience of whatever but what the hell? I’m an artist. I can say whatever I want, hah. I was in a small conservative Christian school and I didn’t agree with the things they were teaching. It was the kind of teaching that wasn’t about love or caring for people, it was, that person is this, so they’re pretty much less than human. I wasn’t afraid to say it wasn’t right. So they got rid of me.
I was a straight A student, almost always on honor roll, and I’d been going there for 7 years, since the year it opened. These people were like my family. It broke me up inside… I didn’t really have anyone else in my life. So in a way, I felt abandoned. I came across these buildings and something clicked. It was therapeutic in a way.
I have had some scary experiences while shooting locations out in these small towns. Do you have any fun stories to share?
Haha… I’m going to tell the one that just happened to me last weekend, or technically the weekend before last. I was in a town called Elisabethtown on the Ohio River. It was so strange, a total time warp, and even thought it was in Illinois, everyone there had the thickest southern accents I’ve ever heard. We stayed at the oldest hotel in Illinois and were the only ones there (not even the people who worked there were there) amazing weather… amazing spot. I recommend it. I’ve never heard so many birds or seen so many stars… anyway, we went to this diner for lunch and this conversation went down…
Waitress: Is that your camera? (referring to the M8)
Waitress: How old are you?
Me: I’m 18.
Waitress: Oh I thought you were like 12 or 13.
My mom would have never bought me a camera like that when I was your age.
My mom: She bought it herself.
Waitress: When I was 18 I had better things to do.
Then she walked off.
The next day the owner of the hotel made us breakfast and told us that some people there are very unwelcome to other people who aren’t from there.
I love the look of your photos. I assume you use photoshop to achieve your desired effects. How long does it take you to work on one photo, and how did you learn photoshop so well?
It is photoshop, and the time depends. Some are really easy. This one I’m working on now, it only took about an hour or two, but there’s still some tweaking. There’s some that take almost 10 hours. I used to work nonstop usually through the night and go to bed at 6 am, but now I normally take breathers and wait and see how it looks to me in a few weeks, so the time really varies. I actually don’t think I’ve learned photoshop well. I know how to do certain things, which was all just trial and error, I prefer to learn that way.
Your photo of the empty building in Kentucky is one of my favorites and your processing is amazing with this image. How did you spot this building and what made you realize it would make a good photo?
Thanks! It is one of my favorites as well. I was on a road trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and had just left this crappy motel in the middle of no where, it was still pretty early, about 7 am I think… Not actually at night. We were driving through this old little town and we’d actually driven past it before at night, but we were totally lost and freaking out and had just done a giant circle for about an hour in the total boonies in Kentucky. We bunked down at the only motel for about 3 hours and the next day went through the town again. I spotted the building and what really caught me was inside. Beautiful vines and colors, and it was a very floggy day, so that stuff really stood out to me. Although the area around it wasn’t too great (I am normally pulled into scenes where the whole photo intrigues you, not just the subject.) The building was too cool to pass up.
Many purists argue that photoshop is the devil and should never be used. What would you say to that?
I don’t get that at all. It is essentially no different than the darkroom. I think people have the wrong idea of photoshop. Oh it’s all filters and pressing buttons and it does everything for you. That’s not the case, at least not with me. I hand tweak all my shots similar to what one would do in a darkroom. A lot of people ask me, “so are these photoshopped?” like it’s a bad thing. Yeah, they definitely are photoshopped, and I’m unapologetic.
Your photos of the musicians are really full of emotion and feeling. How did you get started with it?
I was a big fan of Gavin DeGraw back when I was 12, and I went to a lot of shows and took pictures. Then I did the same with people they played with, and through the years I got to meet a lot of great people to photograph. I’m very lucky now to have found a band that I can tour with and that are supportive of my work, and I am a big fan of their music, so it’s all around awesome to work with them. I feel like the people I photograph want me around, and are comfortable having me around. They can be themselves and I photograph that. The shots are honest.
What is your favorite photo that you have ever taken, and why?
That is a really tough one… I don’t think I could answer that. I have a few favorites. Mainly, the first ones I’d taken in each series. They started something important for me. Also the ones where the buildings have now been destroyed.
Have you ever presented your images in a gallery? If so, are you interested in doing more of it?
I actually just took down a show in the West Loop today (well, yesterday, as it’s 2:30 in the morning.) I am definitely interested in doing more of it. I’d love to get in some more Chicago showings… some other cities… I’d like to expand into Canada and then even further, maybe Germany.
I think you are crazy talented for being 18 years old. Is photography something you plan in pursuing as a career? If so, what type of photography most interests you?
Thank you. I definitely already consider it a career, although a modest one compared to some others. I don’t know if one certain type interests me the most. I alternate between music and fine art. Some days I’m like, “man I love this. I love taking pictures of these bands. I feel like I should really concentrate on this.” And somedays I feel the opposite… loving doing fine art, no pressure, working for myself. I love them both.
What is the coolest thing that has happened with your photography so far?
Going on tour I think. May of 2009 was a crazy, crazy time for me. I was 17… moving from a small town to the big city, having never been away from my home for more than a week. I moved here alone, barely knowing anyone. And about a week later, I grabbed a cab to O’Hare and flew out to Pittsburgh to meet with the band (Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers) to tour and shoot shots for their then upcoming record. I’d never even flown by myself, and barely flew at all since I’d been deathly afraid of it. It kind of amazes me, that I managed to do all that. It’s definitely an adventure. I’m enjoying it a lot. I can’t wait for what’s to come.
Thank you Megan for sharing your awesome photos and taking the time to answer these questions! I wish you all the success in the world!
Thank you! Honestly, I don’t know if anyone would do anything without people showing interest and support in what they do, so thank you, it means a lot.
You can see more of Megan’s work at her website! Just click on over to www.mbakerphotography.com to check it out!