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Manipulating Life With Photos

When it comes to photography, it’s been a long road for Hicksville’s John Micheals. What started as a hobby in childhood, has now returned as an irreplaceable form of self expression.

“It’s a way of expressing myself. I’m very comfortable with it. It’s a way of expressing myself and being me without any qualifications,” he said.

Micheals’ journey in photography started with snapping pictures with a Kodak as a kid growing up in Queens. As an undergrad at City College of New York, he took art classes and his photography took a back seat as he became an art teacher. When he retired in 1996, he picked up the camera again, taking classes at Nassau Community College and getting his certificate in photography. He dropped photography again when family priorities arose, and got behind the lens again in 2009.  

And it’s a good thing he did—his photos have gained recognition over the last five years as he has been in over 30 exhibits and won best in show 3 times. He is currently exhibiting in several local venues, including the Heckscher Museum Biennial Exhibit and Manhasset Public Library.

“I do this for myself, but I like to share it with other people. It’s very satisfying,” says Micheals. “In general, an artist wants to share their work with other people. People might not like it, but if they can respect it and say it’s a good piece of work, that’s what’s important.”

Photography has changed tremendously from when Micheals started, or even from when he was taking classes on it in college. He switched to digital photography around eight years ago and says it was hard to give up the dark room experience. But Micheals says that he embraces all the new advances in photo technology.

“There’s watercolor, washes, oils, acrylics, digital, iPhoneography. I welcome that. Why not? Something else is going to come along in the next 20, 30 or 40 years that we can’t even think of and that’ll create another dimension,” he says.

He now uses a Canon, but keeps a Sony R100 handy at all times. He also incorporates a lot of manipulations and is particularly attracted to dramatic lighting and techniques that emphasize a particular look or effect.  

“I consider myself an artist that does photography, not a photographer who does photography," said Micheals. "I use my images more as sources for creating, rather than mimicking life as a photo."  

Micheals’ particular technique includes using as little flash as possible and holding the camera (as opposed to using a tripod). He does a lot of close up work and says he likes to focus on common or vintage objects such as the head of a nail, or wood knots in an old barn, that tend to be overlooked.

“You don’t have to go cross country to take good photos,” Micheals said. “You can do it locally and in your own backyard. That’s what interests me.”  

Micheals will have a photo in the Heckscher Museum Biennial Exhibit from Aug. 16 to Nov. 30. He currently is in a mixed media exhibit at the Manhasset Public Library until Sept. 25.