Capturing Cultures with Michael Marquand.

Capturing Cultures with Michael Marquand.

New York-based, creative photographer Michael Marquand tells us his creative evolution from community college classes to travelling the world on assignment.

Beginning his travel passion with his first international trip to Costa Rica, Michael Marquand has since developed his craft as a tool for cultural expression. Documenting and distilling the various people, places and communities he has been immersed in around the world, his photography captures cultures for the viewer. Gravitating towards his intuitive style defined by graphic compositions and a strong use of color, his work is both bold and emotive. 

 

See more from his portfolio below and read our interview with the new IMAGO photographer:

IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand

Can you tell us a little about how you got started in your career and how you and photography met?

I began playing around with photography in high school and started taking classes at the local community college. Every class I took led me to sign up for another one. I think I took every class they had before applying to a photography school in Seattle which I ended up going to. After graduating I worked in the photo industry in Seattle for a couple of years assisting other photographers and taking small shooting gigs before moving to New York where I’ve been living and working for the past 15 years. 

 

In your own words you describe your photographs as ‘defined by graphic compositions and a strong use of color’ . Is this an aesthetic that you always had as a creative reflex or something you nurtured and crafted throughout your career? Would you say that your early work also is defined by these elements?

The truth is a writer friend of mine helped me with my bio and used those words to describe my work. So, not technically my words but after reading it I thought that description seemed fitting. Even though my work has evolved over the years I do think that was a somewhat good description of my style from the beginning. At various points in my education and even at the beginning of my career there were times that I saw the work of other photographers that shot in a very different style than me and I would try to emulate their style a bit and it just never worked. I always gravitated towards the style that was intuitive to me. I once heard an anecdote about standup comedy that ‘you don’t choose your style, your style chooses you’. I think the same is true for photographers. 

IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand

You have a strong focus on travel in your portfolio with many of your trips published in print. Was travel your passion before photography or were the two always intrinsically linked in your life?

In college and during the beginning of my career I didn’t travel at all because I didn’t have any extra money beyond what it cost me to go to school and pay my living expenses. Once I got into my 20’s I had more freedom to travel and photographing those experiences came naturally. The most interesting thing about traveling to me is just witnessing the ways that the place you’re in is different from the place you’re from and photography to me is the best way to explore that relationship. 

 

Can you tell us a little about your time in Bhutan?

I’ve gone to Bhutan twice now on assignment for a travel company. The first trip was to document the different districts in Central and Eastern Bhutan and the 2nd trip we visited the southern districts. It was an amazing experience and both times I was able to visit very remote areas that would have been very difficult to travel to on my own. 

 

When photographing the locals in the places you travel to, how do you interact with them effectively as a photographer but also respectfully as a visitor? How do you build a rapport with them?

It varies wildly depending on the situation as well as the country. Some cultures seem to be more camera friendly than others. Sometimes I will ask if I can take someone’s portrait if it seems appropriate, or just gesture with my camera if there is a language barrier. If someone hides their face or just looks uncomfortable I always leave them alone. I often find myself shooting a larger scene with people in it just to see how they react. A lot of times those are just throw away shots but it’s a way for me to test the waters and see if people mind being photographed and if I get a good, or at least neutral reaction I’ll move in closer to get the shot I actually want. 

IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand

Was there one location you have visited that changed things for you memorably, professionally or otherwise?

The first international trip I took as an adult was to Costa Rica. That was somewhat of a milestone just because it made me realize that international travel was much cheaper and more accessible than I had thought and it just made me want to do more of it. My first trip to Bhutan was also somewhat of a milestone just because I was away for so long. I spent two months in Bhutan and then another three weeks backpacking through southeast Asia. I loved it. 

 

What are the biggest challenges in shooting in new or unknown locations?

Getting there at the right time in the right weather and timing the light. If I have to shoot something very specific I either have to give myself time for the weather and the light to be right or walk away with a less than ideal image. If it’s indoors then it’s just a matter of knowing what the space looks like ahead of time and bringing the right equipment.

IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand

All your work has a strong affinity to culture. Portraying it to a wider audience and experiencing it yourself. Would you agree? Was this a natural creative draw for you?

Definitely a natural draw for me. Different cultures express themselves visually and documenting that is the most interesting part of travel photography. If you shoot an empty landscape it might look like it could be anywhere but if you shoot the same landscape with a piece of architecture or a person wearing a specific style of clothing the viewer will have a better sense of place. 

 

You also have a passion for food photography. How did you get started in this area of the Profession?

At one point I was working with an art director at Conde Nast on several travel piece’s based in New York and we were featuring restaurants among other things. Around that same time I was shooting for a wine company and we started doing gourmet food shoots to go with the wine pairings. Both of those experiences helped me appreciate food photography in a new way and led to more work shooting food. 

IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand

Instagram.. Effective tool or phase? What is your take on it as a professional?

Ugh, I kind of hate it. Mostly because I don’t want to be posting constantly and I don’t like the idea of someone’s first impression of my work being whatever I posted most recently vs a portfolio which is much more curated. At one point I was trying to get into it more because it’s what every photographer is doing but it never got me any work. I don’t think I’ve posted anything in over a year. However, I do know photographers who benefit from it. I think you have to be the type of person that wants to be on social media all the time for it to be an effective tool. 

 

Where is the next place you are planning to go post-COVID? Is there somewhere you would like to but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

I’m going on a road trip with some friends through the southwest to visit Zion national park and a few other places in the beginning of July. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is also very much on my bucket list!  

IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand
IMAGO / Michael Marquand
Photo: IMAGO / Michael Marquand

Michael Marquand is a freelance photographer from Seattle, Washington, living and working in Brooklyn, New York. His photographs are defined by graphic compositions, and a strong use of color, with a body of work that includes a strong focus on travel, people, interiors culture and food.

 

See his work with us at IMAGO.

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