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Michael is very proud to announce a solo show upcoming at Gallery OVO.
April 6th and 7th. thru April 29th.
OPENING: April 6th 7 – 10pm / April 7th 2 – 5pm
An Exhibition celebrating Michael’s internationally revered collection “Heavy Like Rain”
plus, the debut of selected pieces from a brand new unreleased underwater abstract series.
South Orange, New Jersey 07079
Interview with Resource Magazine:
RESOURCE: Somewhere along the way, you apparently became interested in underwater photography… Can you tell me how that happened?
MICHAEL: I’ve always had a love and respect for water, everything about it, from gorgeous and exotic beaches, to the smell of rain, and of course the allure of the sea. Growing up, I studied Martial Arts for 10 years, and then when I read a quote from Bruce Lee, it gave profound reinforcement to my fascination.. “be like water”, he said, because water always knows what to do, and where to go. It adapts and survives everything, it gives life, yet it also can take it away.
On my Honeymoon in Croatia in 2010, my wife’s friend from her youth, who is a scuba instructor and underwater nature and wildlife photographer, introduced me to underwater photography. She took us to an ancient shipwreck off the coast of the Omis, Croatia where my wife, Viktorija, grew up. The depth was only around 10 feet or so, so we could easily hold our breath and get to the bottom with the help of a weight belt. The surface of the water that day was very choppy, yet when you got underwater it was quite calm and serene. It was there, standing on the bottom of the sea in the crystal clear waters of the Dalmatian Coast, a place where the human body is not supposed to be, with schools of fish swimming around me that I became obsessed with taking my personal style of photography to the underwater world and making it a reality.
Photographing for intentional results underwater can be very challenging, but the imagery you can achieve is unmistakable and well executed underwater fashion photography is beyond inspiring to say the least.
RESOURCE: You’re also fortunate enough to form a “husband and wife team,” with Viktorija… How did that come about?
MICHAEL: Viktorija and I started our careers independently, but we met early on and developed our skills, talents, and vision together. Creating images and all sorts of things together has been the underlying theme of our relationship and is one of our life’s joy. One main goal of ours is to always better ourselves, personally and professionally, so we have the respect and ability to be more honest with each other about our shoots and what we would like to achieve, or what we can improve on in the future, perhaps more so than other creative partners.
Having been born on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, Viktorija has always had a love for water too, but it’s more me that had the desire to explore underwater as an environment for photography, though we are excited to work together on anything, the thrill of water work is an extra bonus.
Our love for water has manifested in other ways in our lives too. We even got married on a yacht in the New York harbor, it was amazing!
I truly believe that opportunities present themselves when you present your best loves to the world.. We both love Cirque du Soleil (which she introduced me to), and through the good vibe of the world we werepresented with the opportunity to photograph with Cirque Du Soleil for a fashion editorial with the cast of Amaluna, a water based show that celebrats the power of women. It was an amazing shoot and experience, and I feel fortunate to still be in contact with some of the cast from the show who we photographed with..
RESOURCE: Did you ever encounter any dangerous situations, for example with models getting out of breath, or how do you avoid dangerous situations?
(side question: do you always use an oxygen mask?)
MICHAEL: When photographing underwater, safety is the utmost importance. Many things have the potential to go wrong or not as planned on any shoot, and working underwater raises the level of things to be prepared for. On my first shoot, I had a scare for myself, when in a moment of exhaustion, I almost couldn’t get back up to the surface when I needed to breathe. I was in only about 4 feet of water but was practically laying down on my back on the bottom and I had weights on my arms, as I hadn’t known fully yet the best places to wear weights. I didn’t realize how tired I was, but couldn’t get my footing to get up.. I had a minor panic moment, but quickly realized i needed to calm down and just roll over to get feet and legs under me.. So having experienced that myself, I always make sure that the models and crew are safe and explain everything to them first about the shoot requirements and about safety aspects of working underwater.
I don’t always use compressed air to breathe when I shoot. It really does help, but if not everyone is using air, it can potentially be a little bit of a communication barrier between the photographer and model(s).. If I am the only one who has air, I still like to start out the day wth the models doing breathing exercises for them to get the hang of controlling their heartbeats and breathing to keep them relaxed.. It can be exhausting work and confusing at times too, so communication is really important.
MICHAEL: I’m super in love with the “Snowdrop” series that I’ve just finished up with it. I had a vision of depicting SnowDrop (which is the original title of what became known as Snow White) while she was unconscious in the forest after being poisoned. I’ve wanted to begin incorporating my underwater photography into our Story-Tellers project, so what better way to show a person in suspended animation then to be floating underwater.
I also really love the “Breath from Another” series, a story of lovers who depend on each other to share their breath of life.. I enjoy working with multiple people, capturing their interactions or tensions between them. I definitely want to shoot more multiple people underwater in the future.
RESOURCE: (this relates to my previous question) You call “The Story-Tellers” on your website “a very special project by the husband and wife team.” What makes it so special?
MICHAEL: This project is special for many different reasons. The first one is for our daughter who is 2 1/2 years old. She has brought so many wonderful things to our lives so projects like this take on new meanings and understandings.
Viktorija, having grown up in Eastern Europe, was raised with a respect and teachings of fairytales and folklore that isn’t really taught too much here in the US anymore. She was shaped by Hans Christian Andersen stories and various Grimm fairy tales, among other local folklore. She had a fairy tale book growing up called “Najljepse bajke svijeta” (which means, The worlds most beautiful fairy tales) and loved to be read stories from her mother at bedtime. She fondly remembers always asking for “one more” story.. Unfortunately, During the war in former Yugoslavia, that precious book was lost and she always had a dream of creating her own book as an homage to her childhood and others who grew up with fairy tales and legends as learning tools.. the Project has grown to encompass more than just that, and has is taking a life of its own..
The project is our way to interpreting fairly tales and folklore in ways that visually speak to us and ways that we would love to see.
Our lives in the industry has always been about telling stories through photography either in the realm of fashion or beauty, or commercially in advertising, and this project allows us to approach image making from a more artistic side of the craft. Although we still love to incorporate fashion and the other industry specialties that we have access to.
This project is also very much about collaboration of artists and creative minds. We have it titled “the Story-Tellers” yet its more about everyone involved in each image as being the people who are telling the stories, the stylists, the clothing designers, costume designers, models, etc… We all share our experiences and talents in making each shot as amazing as our imaginations will take us. We also hope to gain sponsorship for the project and team up with children’s charities or other like-minded organizations to help take the project to the next level.
RESOURCE: Can you elaborate which stories you are trying to depict in your “The Story-Tellers” project, the stories you say that have shaped your lives?
MICHAEL: As the concept of the project is not strictly stories that have been previously written or documented, the first image we did is a vision of Viktorija’s which she called “Rush”. She wanted to portray what it felt like when you have been emotionally frozen for a long period of time, and something or someone comes along to help bring those inner butterflies back to life, and bring color back into your world.
Another one of her concepts we brought to life is called “When I grow up”, which is the dreams of a little girl who sees herself breaking free from her cage that holds her and flying free with the birds among the vibrant colors of her new and future world.
The very latest image I finished is a concept I photographed with our daughter, titled “Rising Tide”. A friend in Croatia who is also a photographer asked if i would participate in an upcoming show of his for National Geographic, where photographers he knows around the world would contribute an image to a projection wall installation that pertain to his overall show. The images all show a person with a finger to their lips, to say “shhh”, and is a comment and contemplation on Global Warming for an Earth Day event. I immediately knew I wanted to use our daughter as the subject to represent youth and the future of the planet, as well as a composition of NYC buildings with the tide rising around her.. It was great to photograph her as well as the city and perfect for our project with such an important and relevant message behind it.
RESOURCE: Which projects or stories or shoots are still on your to-do list?
MICHAEL: We have a lot more shots and concepts that we want to explore.
I had the fortune of being contacted by a model who was visiting New York from Tanzania. I wanted to bring in stories from the whole world instead of just what we are familiar with, so this was a great opportunity for us. We chatted a lot about women’s role in their society among many other things, and we have a great series coming depicting the strength of the Tanzanian woman and women in general in our changing advancing world. Tanzania is certainly on my list of places to visit soon!
There is also the story of Vasilisa, a Russian Fairy tale that were are prepping to shoot soon, too.
RESOURCE: How important is post-processing in your photography?
MICHAEL: Post-processing can be a big part of some of the images from the project, but it just depends on what the vision is for the final image. I’m not opposed to composition work and even enjoy the aspect of the images being a new “multi-media” endeavor, but I do try to get most of “the shot” in camera when ever possible.. For example, the image of “When i Grow up” is photographed all in camera. For that image, we collaborated with the amazing costume designer, Miodrag Guberinic, who designed the headpiece (as well as created the butterflies for “Rush” ), and Viktorija painted the watercolor background, then created the makeup to feel the same as the paintings as if she was painted too.
I do however have a lot of ideas that have to be done as composites, as it’s impossible to do otherwise or without a Million dollar budget.
“Snowdrop” (which was partly a collaboration with the New York Fashion designer Morgane Le Fay), took a bit of time to do from concept to finish. I photographed the forest during December two winters ago and then had to wait to do the underwater part of it until it was warm this past late summer. I did have tree branches in the water for the closer shot, but then as the editing process progressed, my vision for the shot concept became much more than originally planned, so more post-processing than originally thought went into that one as well.
We have another image series coming which we photographed in Venice while on a Fashion shoot. It will also become a composite shot with adding other elements needed to make it convey what I have in mind, being that we really couldn’t close down Saint Marks Square for a few days, but that would have truly been amazing to do and would have had stories of its own!
2016 Applied Arts Awards:
In 2016, Michael was honored to be awarded by Applied Arts Magazine.
He was awarded in the Fashion & Beauty Category for his “A Vibrant Soul” Series photographed in Lisbon Portugal.
“A Vibrant Soul” : Fashion & Beauty Series Award:
an editorial that celebrates the passion within Lisbon. You can feel it on every street.
The city is alive with creativity and overflowing with emotion, love, and a joy for life.
It was truly a beautiful experience scouting for this shoot. We walked up and down the sometimes steep hills of the city, and enjoyed the incredible architecture around every turn.
The houses covered in such unique tilings to the hand painted elements around each building. What an amazingly beautiful place to be.. Friends of mine has said that they would love to be able to live there, and I can certainly see why.
Digital Photographer Magazine Interview
30 Tips for beginning photographers
Digital photographer Magazine approached me about sharing some tips for new photographers, things I’ve learned along the way, techiques i’ve developed, etc.. I was more than happy to share…
1. “SCRATCH MY BACK” – be willing to do favors for the people that are giving you their time. You’ll be remembered for it and appreciated.. Having said that, be wise and use your judgement, there will always be people ready to take advantage of goodness.
2. “HUMBLE PIE” – be aware that you (meaning the whole crew) are all in this together, its a learning process. The other individuals in your crew are starting out too, so try notto be too critical about them if something is not up to your perceived standards. Maybe in the beginning, you may not have it all together either..
3. “THE PERFECT STORM” – Don’t wait for the “perfect storm”, or the ideal situations and circumstances to start shooting.. “Make it happen” with what you have in front of you.. My first studio was a large shed in my backyard.. i emptied it out, built a flat wall in the back, painted it and painted the floor, and with my terrible lights and lens that had a small chip in it, I started shooting…
4. “BE TRUE TO YOURSELF” – If you focus on shooting what makes you happy and aim towards making the kinds of imagery that you are excited about, it will show in your work and you will be asked to do those jobs in return. You’ll be noticeably excited about your work, and the cycle will continue.
5. “KNOW THE RULES BEFORE YOU BREAK THEM”. – Even if you are self taught, as I mostly am, it’s still very important to know the basic rules of your craft before you can go about breaking them. This way you know the core building blocks and can build upon them in your own way. Also, it’s good to be aware of the peoples work that have come before you, as opposed to revisiting an idea that has already been done in the past, all the while thinking you are the first one to do it..
6. “DOUBLE DOWN” – Check, re-check, and re-check again….
7. “REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING” – Always meet your promised deadlines, and be sure to thank everyone appropriately who has worked for you and given you their time.
PRODUCTION VALUE: – Pre, during, and Post.
8. “BE SKETCHY” – Sketch out all your ideas for your shoot on actual paper and keep these sketches with you.. – A lot can happen throughout the life of a shoot, before and during, and your attention can get spread very far.. so keeping your ideas on paper, and close at hand, will keep your shoot going on track, and you’ll accomplish what you’ve set out to do.
9. “BACK UP THE BUS” – Always have back up plans in mind…. for everything. Equipment can fail, plans can be altered due to circumstances that you have no control over.. So having backup ideas for all sorts of things will save you when the unthinkable happens, – because that unthinkable thing will certainly happen!
10. “SAY WHAT?” – Clear communication is essential in all parts – don’t assume other people know what you mean, or know what is expected of them from you. Explaining exactly what you mean when asking questions of all crew is very beneficial. We photographers have our own language and often times we make sense to ourselves, but not to others… Furthermore, communication with your model is very important. (along with everyone else on set) As the photographer, we need to talk to him or her, or them (multiple models) like they are other humans working with us, not just something in front of your camera that has to perform for you.
11. “WHERE THE #&LL”? – have an exact file system and workflow set up within your computer.. This will help you keep track of everything.. Try to include as many things into your routine as possible – especially when working with outside people. (retouchers, producers, etc..) you need to keep your files together. I have a Hierarchal Folder system set up, a Main job folder, with sub-folders that are planned for RAW, PROCESS, BTS, etc.. and all those with sub-folder for other specific things.. This way, I make a blank copy of the same beginning folders at the start of every new job, and never have to wonder where something is..
12. “THE FINER POINTS OF LIFE” – Retouching… make sure that if you are not a great retoucher, that you find great retouchers to work with.. In this digital age, retouching is just as important, (or more depending on other issues, which sounds silly to say, but seems true sometimes), than the photography itself. – At the start of some jobs, this is always a big question. (and retouch the WHOLE photo, this includes background, hair, skin, clothing, color tone, etc… ) It can be a simple task some times, but don’t forget to look at everything.
13. “HUH?” – Don’t be afraid to ask others to explain themselves to you.. For example, with estimates and rate quotes. Everyone is always trying to get as much money as they can for everything, so if a quote seems out of the ordinary, it’s good to speak up and ask about it. You can be sure that you’ll be asked to justify many many things..
14. “AND I’LL SCRATCH YOURS” – Make sure everyone is taken care of on set.. Either do it yourself, or delegate to others, be it assistants, production crew, etc.. – water.. food.. prep…payments… – it’s all on you as the photographer… if a shoot goes bad or people in your crew aren’t treated the right way, there’s a good chance that you as the photographer will be remembered as holding responsibility for it. – When all aspects of the shoot are fun and nicely memorable, in turn, you’ll be remembered for that too.
15. “CLIMBING THE LADDER” – Work with talented people that want to work with you and can work within your budget. But don’t be afraid to ask for favors.. people ask favors of photographers all the time… but remember to make good on those favors later.. also, when starting out in your career, work with other people that are on your same level, your peers… of course we all will reach higher in t
ime.. but be realistic about who you are contacting to work with while you are building your book..
16. “PRESENTATION IS KEY” – Make a standard for your final image presentation, Naming and Delivery system. Too many times, i’ve seen images from other photogs where their naming syst
em is all over the place, and makes no sense… Images are crazy sizes and resolutions.. completely chaotic.. Make a great no-brainer system, and your clients and crew will love you for it.. (we hope)
17. “AND THE AWARD GOES TO..” – Always give credit where credit is due. Stylists, Hair and Makeup, Crew, Models, Producers, etc.. as much as possible and in the proper places. We all want it for ourselves, so do it for others…
ITS GO TIME: the Shoot itself….
18. “CAN YOU….” – Make sure you delegate responsibilities to your assistants.. this is something i struggle with myself.. I fall into the trap of trying to do everything myself.. Your assistants and production crew (if you have them) are there for a reason, give them things to do..
19. “ROCK ON!” – You may love your own music, but everyone on set may hate it.. Just because you like to work privately to a particular style of music doesn’t mean it works well to shoot to.. – If your model and crew are miserable with your music selection, then you’re gonna have bad vibes on set, and a poor shoot..
20. “CHECK 1..2..” – Don’t assume your camera has the correct settings.. – Check and double check before, and during the shoot.. on some cameras it’s too easy to accidentally change controls and dials. If you find yourself always nudging a dial the wrong way and changing f-stop without knowing, just tape it down.. it’s your camera, make it work for you.
21. “STOP, CALIBRATE AND LISTEN” – Make sure you and/or your Digitech in on top of everything color wise.. Color calibration, color tone of prints (if you do during the shoot).. etc.. Wrong calibration can make your lighting different that what you think you’re doing and It will affect your relationship with your client if it’s off by too much and not noticed.. – If a client takes prints back to the office, and the colors are way off, the other people in the office won’t know why, nor will they care.. They’ll just see you as incompetent. The buck starts and stops with you, the photographer
22. “TRUST” – Let the people you have chosen to work with expand on your ideas with ideas of their own.. Control is hard to let go of.. but you trusted them enough to work with them in the first place.. trust and allow their creative ideas as well.. you will grow with it and with them..
23. “CHECK YOURSELF” – Keep an eye on the overall picture – the crew, clothing, clamps, hair, makeup, nails, everything.. These are all issues that ultimately the photography will be held responsible for if anything is wrong.. Watching all these things will lessen that amount of retouching to do later..
24. “I ONLY EXPERIMENTED WITH IT ONCE!”– experiment with different lenses if you can.. each has it’s own characteristics, and you might find one that really has the tendencies that speak to how you want your images to feel. Maybe you’ll like lens filters? – and also play around with different objects in front of the lens.. You are creating a fantasy world (sometimes) and your identity, so have fun with it!
25. “FIRE!”– It’s still a good idea to use light meters.. In this age with digital cameras and large monitors, we can get complacent with not metering light..
photography is all about light and it’s manipulation.. at some point you’ll find yourself without the ability to have a screen in front of you, and you’ll need to know how to read the light surrounding your subject. My favorite is the old trusty Minolta V-F, simple and does the job. Plus keep in mind, the small screens on the back of cameras are rarely anything you should really trust.
26. “CHILL OUT MAN” If your not shooting to a tower while tethered, and shoot to a laptop instead.. get a Fan cooled platform to go under it.. This will keep it cool, and keep you shooting at decent speed, and also protect the life of the computer.
26. “YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?” Surprisingly, some legitimate top ad agencies from around the world don’t always ask legitimate questions or have honorable expectations of you. – on a recent occasion, an agency asked me to lower my estimate due to fears of it being too high for clients approval.. (this is not abnormal thing to ask).. but then after the estimate was trimmed, they proceeded to ask me if I would then add a hidden 10-15 % back into it, which would be then expected to be paid back to agency after paid to me.. REALLY?? – there’s many terms for this practice, pick one…. – needless to say, I didn’t do it and passed on the job..
27. “DON’T TREAD ON ME” – don’t let yourself get walked on.. Don’t be an jerk about it, but stand up for yourself as a person and a business.
28. “START AT THE BEGINNING” – educate yourself, know your industry, it’s ups and downs, current rates, etc., and be prepared for crazy requests, and others’ lack of knowledge. If a situation comes up that your client is not knowledgable about, it’s our job to educate them. If we don’t know our own business, how can we enlighten others?
29. “AND IN THIS CORNER” – Portfolio presentation: I get asked about this a lot. We live in a world that is all over the place with preferences and options for portfolios.. Know that you will get a different answer from each person you ask as to what is the best option. Do what is right for you at the time and for your budget, and always aim higher with cleaner more precise presentation. No matter what format you pick, your images should speak for themselves, not how fancy your book is.. Also beware of sending iPads unless you are right there to show it directly.. Books are easy to open and read and don’t need instruction. Not everyone knows how to use an iPad, (or other devices) nor do they know what seems “simple to view” like you do on your own machine..
30. “GET THE JOB”. Know your own boundaries of what you can live with.. It’s a cut throat business at times, so know yourself and the kinds of things you can live with doing to “get the job”
Fire in the Sky : Fashion and Beauty Photography Single Award:
Heavy Like Rain : Fashion & Beauty Photography Series Award:
iNKT: Photo Manipulation Series Award:
Rovinj PhotoDays MasterClass and Guest Photographer:
In 2013, Michael was asked to be the guest photographer for the Annual Photography Festival in Rovinj Croatia called “Rovinj PhotoDays”.
There, he taught a Master Class going over his own process of shooting editorials, and related this to the students. He worked them to develop their concepts and see a short project from start to finish.
As quest photographer for the the event, he photographed a few editorials for participating magazine GloriaGlam. He photographed 2 editorials in beautiful Rovinj, and another with a celebrity in Split, Croatia.