This summer is about you guys- the movers & shakers. Your wild ideas, beautiful stories and hopes of Something Bigger – that’s what this next few months is about. I’m happy to introduce you to some fellow Lark & Bloom readers who are doing some big things. Starting now.
I’d like you to meet Michael Tucker. His photos are magic and his thoughts about you in the last few paragraphs are gold. Pure gold.
Liz : Tell us a little about yourself.
Michael : Hi! I was born in Metairie, LA – a suburb of New Orleans. A couple months after I was born, my parents decided to move to Memphis for my dad’s job. They missed home too much and moved back to Louisiana when I was 5 years old. Post-Memphis, I grew up in another suburb of New Orleans called Mandeville. I love Mandeville – I grew up exploring its woods and bayous and spent a lot of time playing baseball and against my own will, going to swim practice.
My dad thought it’d be a good idea to shape me and my sisters into decent swimmers- he thought right. I was good at swimming, but it wasn’t for me. I quit sports when I was 14 and turned my attention to girls and better friends. But mostly girls, I think. My sisters, both younger than I, kept swimming through high school – I kinda look up to them for that commitment. Anyway. High school ended and I moved to Baton Rouge to study business at LSU.
I always knew I’d be at LSU- I’d grown up going to LSU football games with my dad. LSU football remains one of my greatest passions, it’s probably in my blood or something. I got my Bachelors’ in four quick years and somewhere along the way I gained 54K followers on Instagram, became extrememly passioate about art, and found myself at an intership with an ad agency in Chicago which is where I’m at right now. Also, I take photos. Photos of people mostly.
Liz: How did you get into photography?
Michael: During my senior year of high school, I became friends with this dude named Colin whom I always thought was older and cooler than me – he played guitar at this church I went to on Wednesdays and really just looked older than he was. Turns out we had a lot in common, a bunch of mutual friends, and were basically the same age. So we started to hang out and he convinced me to buy a 35mm. I bought my first camera, a Canon A-1 , probably just before I graduated. Colin took beautiful photos. I was inspired.
I bought a roll of film and went shooting in small-town Louisiana with Colin. My first roll turned out pretty nice, so I didn’t really look back after that night.
Liz: Whenever I see your pics in my Instagram feed I am always captivated. There is something really inspiring about the way you capture everyday life. What do you think your photos say about your worldview?
Michael: Well thanks! I always wonder how anyone can be captivated by anything I make – it’s wild and humbling, every time. I’ve been trying to understand who I am, not just as a photographer, but as an artist and human. What’s my voice? What’s my style? These ‘who am I’ questions are probably questions I’ll be asking myself for years and years to come, but I think what I’m beginning to understand about my art and photos in particular is that everything I make is part of a larger conversation with things much greater than myself. Things like the human experience and God. The way I take photos is very reactional. My photos are just a representation of my relationship with those ‘things much greater than myself’.
Liz: Social media gets a bad rap sometimes for being superficial. You are a part of a large online community. What are your thoughts on that?
Michael: I could talk about social media and community all day, but I’ll try to make it simple. Social media is as superficial as you allow it to be. Generally speaking, if you’re genuine with your audience, they’ll return the favor. I’m sure you’ve experienced this to be true. People can tell when we’re forcing it. So be yourself and make cool things on your own timeline. The cool thing about content for social media is that it’s often a win-win for you and your audience. You get to open up and they get to consume, and hopefully be inspired. Again, it’s only superficial if you make it so.
And just to touch on my personal experience with my particular Instagram community – it’s been fantastic. I never would or could have expected to meet so many people making so many cool things. Not to mention the incredible number of generous hearts I’ve come to know – generous in love, grace, encouragement, advice…the list goes on.
Liz: Any tips on building a meaningful community online?
Michael: Building a meaningful community. Hmm, I’m no expert, but I think it comes down to a few things – willingness to take risks, thought leadership, and of course, and genuine interest in your community. Even more than that though, I think it’s important you ensure your own foundation is solid. Would you follow you?
Liz: Okay, I have to ask. What are your favorite iPhone apps for photos?
Michael: Ha! I shoot with the native camera (the camera already on the iPhone) and edit exclusively with VSCO Cam.
Liz: What do you want to say to other Lark & Bloom readers?
Michael: There are so many of you that would like to think of yourself as artists. Maybe not by profession, but still a true artist. What I want to say to you is this: You are an artist. You were born to create. But somewhere along the line, someone or some circumstance discouraged you. An acquaintance, a teacher, a life-altering event – maybe even yourself – discouraged you from creating things you loved to create. Listen – Art is not photography. Art is not drawing, painting. Art is not music. But art is free expression. Some of you are really good at loving people – you are an artist. Some of you make beautiful and moving films – you are an artist.
Some of you speak really well , write really well – you’re artists. And some of you understand numbers and science like most people never do, then use that knowledge to invent cool gadgets – you’re an artist. Art is free expression. It cannot be contained unless you choose to contain it yourself. Choose wisely.
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