Michael Crook | Photographer From the Photo Annual, issues 17 (Jan-Feb 2013) & 27 (Jan-Feb 2014)

FROM ISSUE 17 [ JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2013 ]

As a photographer I find bios challenging to write because my story is in my heart. Artists don’t always think. Sometimes we just create—because our hearts compel us to. Our stories aren’t told in a linear way but visually, and they are always subject to interpretation.

Photography has always been in me, since I was a little girl. My first tool was an old Canon AE1 that my mother gave me. It was a gift that changed my life. Later, I started off shooting celebs and musicians in Los Angeles, which I assumed to be my calling, until the recession changed things. I switched modes and started competing in triathlons, turning my pent-up creative energy into a physical force.

This passion for athleticism brought me into the fantastic and unpredictable world of cycling photography. One of my first supporters was peloton, having noticed I had an eye for the uncommon and enigmatic side of the sport. I eagerly traveled throughout the U.S. in 2010 and Europe in 2011 for peloton and other clients, documenting the unseen, unheard and unbelievable world of professional cycling through video and photography.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I entered the outdoor stadium in Roubaix, France to await the finish of the infamous and historic Paris-Roubaix after having chased the course for hours. My eyes welled up with tears at the sight of the flawless, trembling track upon which the setting sun reflected it’s hopeful rays, anticipating the heroes who were about to arrive from the depths of hell. Cycling is the most beautiful and difficult sport on the world. Yet all athletes, whether they are cyclists, boxers, sailors, triathletes, yogis or horse jockeys, have a sort of insane ability to conjure up a passionate drive that we artists also use as fuel. This link is what inspires me.

Transitioning from cycling in Europe to shooting for UNICEF in West Africa at the end of 2011, opened my visual neuro-pathways to a new genre. Cycling will forever be my first love and the subject that changed my career, helping me see the beauty in the unrefined, the unclear and the uncomfortable. New subjects have since shifted my focus a few degrees beyond my cycling work, but my visual inspiration is always the same. It is what happens off-stage, on the sidelines, behind closed doors, and just beyond a subject’s gaze that truly illustrates what lies at the heart of all sports, and ultimately, all of humanity.

I am a perfectionist.

I love sun flare. (Yes, it’s intentional.)

I hate mid-day sunlight.

When in Italy, I can survive for months on espresso and brioche.

When in West Africa, I can survive for months on Biére Niger and chicken and rice.

When in New York, I just want to get back to Italy and Africa.

 

FROM ISSUE 27 [ JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014 ]

I turned 33 this year. From what people tell me, 33 is a very special number. As a 33 year old, I traveled to Oman, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, India, Utah, and Kentucky—all for work. It’s the most I have ever traveled in one year, and it’s not over yet. This year I have worked together with The Sundance Institute, The Girl Effect, World Of Children Award, UNICEF, START, The International Fundraising Consultancy, FathomAway.com, Food & Wine, Giro, Trek, Operation Groundswell, 14+ Foundation, and many more. It is also the year that I received global recognition for work I entered in the International Photography Awards (IPA), where I received 1st place in an advertising category. I was so shocked when I heard the news, I promptly emailed the organization to be sure they hadn’t made a mistake! And then it hit me that I had really won. What really gave me goose bumps was the realization that I do have a unique perspective that is definable. I can make a contribution by expressing myself through my photography. By showing people what I see.

In Africa, India, Italy, Mexico, and beyond, I have seen the most abject poverty.  I have seen the most vulnerable people, facing challenges that are unimaginable to many who live in the West. But it’s not only the sadness, the pain and the suffering, it’s the happiness, the beauty, the sense of pride and the joyous smiles that men, women and children have all over the world that has changed my world view. People everywhere experience comfort and joy for many of the same basic reasons you and I do.

I love to shoot advertising, sports, travel and lifestyle. This work is creative, fun and keeps my business afloat. Yet it’s my work with organizations like UNICEF, World of Children and The Girl Effect that keeps my soul afloat. This year, as a 33 year old, I have learned that I can help to make change in the world—and this is the greatest gift.

michaelcrook.com