Private property. Probably the two most boring words ever. But there is something I totally appreciate about private property. When I'm hunting around with a camera I usually walk right up to the edge. I'm freewheeling until I see the sign. When I see the sign, I back off. One, I don't want to get shot. Two, I don't like confrontation. And three, mad respect. So for me, the sign is one of those proper mind awareness tools. PMAT. It's readily available, there's no monthly fee and it's full-on yoga. This is a tool I can trust. So I'll wander to the boundary with no worries, clicking this, clicking that. Taking picture after picture. Because when I'm lying on my deathbed and my life flashes before me what I'm actually remembering are all these images. So I want to take the best pictures and I want to capture all the feels. With tender heart and lowered guard I expose every frame to love. I want pictures that help me remember the good shit. Just like they did in Soylent Green. So I'll take another photo, ooh, ahh, then another. Until I see the sign. Then it's BAM! snap-to. I am slapped from my dystopian melancholy and the awkward ironic pleasurable pressure to document my life is gone. Private property, yes, a simple reminder to get back to living.
You read that right, but we'll get to the dirty deets later. Whoa, the last three months just whizzed by. Long of the short, all is chill in Wiggyland. Yay. I've been trying on some new clothes, taking off some used. I'm still living in Lynchburg, VA with the always inspiring Dee W Loizou. We've perfected our spicy fish-sauce sauce. Yes, I'm still vegetarian but this Thai dish we love requires the Red Boat, so we tread lightly and nom, nom, nom the bejesus outta that dish. I took photos for a wedding. My god, that was hard. Probably won't do that again. Thankfully the bride and groom are the best people on the planet. I took on a bookkeeping job for my dear friends at Riverviews...what! Yes, I hear you screaming. It's just temporary, people. No, I'm not moving back to NYC just yet. But I miss it. Dearly. Took photos for a fundraising event. Umm, super hard. But I did it all in character, with a British accent, in striped tights. For the challenge. Oh, I would do that again. For sure. Makes picture taking wildly mysterious. And fun. I did a few promo videos, bought a battery powered light kit, started using my flash a bit more for stills, and yeah, I taught an Introduction to Digital Photography class and an Advanced Digital Filmmaking class at the local liberal arts joint just up the street. It's called Randolph College. Used to be all women. Then that changed in 2006. I had 19 students and 16 were women. So who knows. I began teaching in February. Unfortunately I missed the first 11 classes of the semester because I came in as a pinch-hitter. Probably won't do that again. So hard. But I would do it all again if given a full semester. I taught four classes a week for a total of nine hours. 4.5 hours on Monday and 4.5 hours on Thursday. But you know what, that shizzle was a full-time job. Seriously. Best paying gig I've had in Lynchburg, but damn, brother barely had time to rest. But I kinda loved it? I know it's trite, but mad respect to all the teachers out there. Bring it in for a group hug! Yesterday was my last day. Graded all the students, sent each a personal note of gratitude, and then I noticed I hadn't written a blog post in three months. Whizzed by. The picture up top was taken at a show ring in Big Island, VA. I imagine myself sitting on those aluminum bleachers just taking it all in. Beautiful scenery, nice and quiet, just me and the cool breeze. What a spectacle. What a show. What a gift. Might as well be happy.
We move forward every day until we don't. I've spoken about my extensive work as a production accountant in Los Angeles and NYC. I'll eventually stop talking about those days and focus more on the now. When I moved to Lynchburg I didn't know what to call myself in regards to what I do. My business card in 2017 said, Michael Wiggins, compassionate. But, you know, that doesn't really work so well when you meet new people. Hi! I'm Michael Wiggins, I'm a compassionate. Crickets. But I never said, Hi! I'm Michael Wiggins, I'm a production accountant. Things change.
Today I was walking the aisles at Home Depot. I'm working on a new art installation, looking for some ideas. A kind gentleman asked if he could help me find anything. And this is what I said. Hi! I'm Michael Wiggins, I'm a working artist. Maybe I didn't say the Hi! thing, or the Michael Wiggins, but you know what I mean. I'm a working artist, that's what I said. It just came out of my mouth. I told him I was cruising the inventory looking for inspiration. His smile was genuine and wide, there was no confusion about what it means to be a working artist. He casually pointed to the forklift he was sitting on and said, this is art. We understood each other. He told me if I needed any help just let him know. Beep, beep, he rolled on.
Having photographs or an art installation exhibited in a gallery does not make me a working artist. Although I've been fortunate enough to sell a few photos, no one paid me to take a picture. And my video installation was also self-funded. Honestly, if it wasn't for my years working as a production accountant I would not have been able to move to Lynchburg and reinvent myself. Life is glorious this way. And now I'm a visual artist , but I ain't working. Until last week.
I get an email from Kim the executive director at Riverviews Artspace. I've known Kim nearly the whole time I've lived in Lynchburg. And Dee and I had the pleasure of being one of her guinea pig vendors at the first Riverviews Makers Market. Kim gave our company, Koh-Dee, a chance to sell our wares publicly. That's just Kim, incredibly supportive. Hi! I'm Kim Soerensen, I'm a compassionate. And I would say, yeah you is sis, yeah..you..is. Anyway. Kim's email said some glowing things about my work and basically she hired me to be the staff photographer for Riverviews. I mean...
This was a good day. Kim immediately put me to work documenting a screening of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. I did ok. And I was sincerely giddy for the opportunity. I told myself I would be better at the next gig if I schmoozed a bit more during the process. It's really important to let people know who you are and to make them feel comfortable. And two days after that Kim had me working a fancy-pants breakfast event. In attendance would be a senator, a mayor, women campaigning for Congress, founders of the organization, news media and a ton of good-hearted Lynchburg folks. I perfected my pitch. I took 440 photos. Hi! I'm Michael Wiggins.
I'm a compassionate, a dreamer, a working artist.
This is what I like about the bike. Those two horizontal sidewalk lines. So common in my work are the clean recumbents. The skewed vertical crease in the sidewalk guides my eye to the textured concrete wall where another unbent seam ends at a dominant perpendicular, the purple neon. This tableau was shot at night. The main light source is fluorescent and lively. In order to properly render the bluegreen in the bike tires I had to overexpose some of the key light which thankfully morphed into seductive bands of pure white hot. The frame of the bike is a more docile shade of perfectly exposed pale. Those exquisitely round rubber tires form a strong visual foundation that hug my face like a groovy pair of Ray-Bans. The kickstand and the lock assist the perfect dismount. The bike stuck the landing. A complimentary angle gives me a nice sense of the thick curvy pipes that form the bike rack. The public restrooms sign is a bit of text which feels hopeful and beachy to me. Plus the bike is a cruiser. Oh, and the fact we were slow strolling Virginia Beach at the time. I'm a sucker for a good boardwalk. Playful is the curve of red neon reflected off the window, just enough courage to compliment the bold mercury-vapor and the whimsy lavender. The band of solid black at the top of the frame keeps my eye from wandering off the page. And the shrubs, how their welcome shade of green embraces the light and subtly echoes the palette of the rear tire slowly ascending upwards like a plume of dust whence the bike is untethered. My eyes take refuge in the symmetry of the spokes. There is a feeling of movement in all the stillness. This is what I like about the bike.
From the "Americana Series," Work, Eat, Play. Available as a limited edition, signed on verso, archival pigment print, 16"x20", white frame, white matte, UV glass, ready-to-hang.
Why did I start taking pictures? Pretty much to document family and vacations. My first few cameras were essentially scrapbook facilitators. I love a good keepsake. But by the time I started college I became less interested in the camera as a tool of remembrance. It was the Vivitar 35ES that changed things. The Vivitar was a gift from my dad. It was the second camera he gave to me. We bonded through picture taking. Me and Pops. And boy did that Vivitar make me feel legit. I lugged that baby around from class to class. I had no idea what I was doing at UCSD. I was a biology major, then drama and finally visual arts simply because my roommate at the time, James, got me a concessions job at the Ken Cinema. He worked there too. Films were cool. James was cool. And during our six years of living together in San Diego and Los Angeles, James introduced me to all kinds of art, literature, music and food. James taught me about friendship and cinema as well. Moving images, still images, we were fascinated by every frame. And that's when my relationship to the camera changed. The Vivitar became my first paint brush. I am a deep observer. Patient. Cerebral. A huge fan of pattern recognition. The world was abundant with grace and strange. And the Vivitar faithfully captured my POV. One of the books that reminds me of James is John Berger's "Ways of Seeing." James was a visual arts major as well. I started reading Berger when I had the Vivitar. He was the perfect complement to all the Hitchcock and Truffaut films we saw at the Ken. As John Berger would say, "Seeing comes before words." James, John and the Vivitar. Each introduced me to the world of my inner and outer compositions.
My first camera was a Polaroid Swinger. A gift from my dad. I used to keep a Swinger photo of the family in my wallet. I was so proud of them.
My dad loved taking pictures. He was a faithful documentarian. My mom would make something good to eat and we would dim the lights and watch slides and Super 8 movies projected on the walls. These were times of laughter and love. So thank you James W. Wiggins, Jr. for introducing me to the art of photography and associating the viewfinder as an act of affection.
I take pictures when I am happy. This happiness opens my awareness. An awareness of time and place. Happy to be right here right now. This is what I see. The composition is dependent on balance. The balance is related to light and shape. It is a combination of math and spirituality. Just before the picture becomes art there is a great sigh. This is the most relaxed I can be at that exact moment. Click. It starts and ends with happiness.