After playing an afternoon jam session with Michael Younker, an emerging photographer based out of Savannah, GA, we sat down and discussed his thoughts on life, photography and what his future holds.
Alright Michael, how old are you & where are you from?
I am 20 years old and I am from Detroit, Michigan. I was born in the city and grew up in the northern suburbs.
At what age did you start becoming interested in photography?
My Grandfather gave me a disposable camera on a family vacation. We went to the Florida Keys, I was probably about 12 and it was the first time that I had been put in the position to frame something and create a photograph.
You went to a state school in Michigan after high school– what made you decide to leave state school and instead attend an art school for photography?
A lot of individual attention was missing at Michigan State. And I think that a lot of the art kids are too caught up in trying to be different than the other athletes and students. They are too concerned with being artists rather than creating art. There just weren’t people around that were on the same brain-waves that I was on.
On the note of making art, how would you describe the work that you create to someone that has not seen it before?
(laughs)… Hmm that’s so difficult (laughs).. I would probably tell them that I take a lot of photographs of objects that normally wouldn’t be photographed. And they are kind of dry, probably. A little satire, but mostly I would probably explain my photographs in more terms of the sculptures or still lives that I make, rather than the photography of it.
From what I have seen, your work has started to take a transition into more technology/computer based imagery. Can you explain this transformation and why you think it might be taking place?
I spent a lot of time at Michigan state, and at my first year at SCAD, trying to distance myself from technology, and be really minimal with my technology use. I would only make silver prints and wanted people to sit down and look at them and spend time with them. But I think I just realized that our generation is not going to have that kind of attention span, so I might as well be trying to create images that people can look at and digest in a few seconds, or, if desired, they can really pick them apart. So I like making imagery for the web because it feels…well, its feels less serious. I don’t feel pressure to post something online, but I do feel pressure to make a silver print and show it to someone you know? It’s just a different world.
So, it’s kind of like an alternative form of creativity and expression that doesn’t require you to be stressed or feel as much pressure?
Alright Mike Lets talk about Bananas. A lot of your work, especially the more recent, has contained bananas. Why? And what do you want a viewer to take away from that?
I spent my childhood and early adult life at home in Michigan wrapped around religion. I remember noticing that around religious people, sex was a topic that made them quiver and uncomfortable. We would always split up to talk about “man stuff” and “woman stuff” and that made me want to scream “VAGINA!” as loud as I could. Once I left the church, I felt able to talk about sexual things more freely. So I think that the banana is a phallus in some of the imagery. In other sculptures, it is more of an iconographic symbol. And also I think its because bananas are like .16 cents per banana, so I could get ten bananas and make ridiculous photographs all day without having to worry about any sort of cost…(laughs).
Would you say that you do want people to think about sex when viewing these images?
I think that it’s really hard not to think about sex, and in the .gifs particularly. Initially they were just odd pairings of objects, and bananas eventually became more and more prominent as the male genitalia. I guess, that if someone didn’t think about sex when looking at the banana .gifs, I would be very surprised.
Your work, both your film and your digital based creations, are mostly black and white. Why do you think that you have been drawn to black and white over the years rather than color?
Black and white was my way of contextualizing the still-lives into a Ruscha-esque, 1960’s, pop-art/minimalism framework.
What do your next two years look like?
I’d love to do collaborative installations as well as continue my net-art. I’ll also be really trying to have a zine printed by the end of the spring. Also it’s very possible that my music career with Triathalon will affect my plans after school.
See Mike’s full body at www.michaelyounker.com
Check out his band Triathalon on bandcamp