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A Photographer Captivated by Baltimore Musicians

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Micah E. Wood is a photographer, musician, and graphic designer, and understanding this is key to appreciating his photography. For Wood, all three creative practices are equally important and, despite differences in media and technique, all three enrich one another in surprising ways. Each of Wood’s portraits has a clear sense of compositional structure, and often employs flat color shapes and interesting cropping, in addition to bold color and glowing light. There’s a musical quality to each image as well, a poppy sensibility that feels friendly and authentic, an intimate look into an unguarded moment that could function as a still from a music video you’d want to watch.

For the past decade, Wood has trained his lens on other musicians, creating a multifaceted portrait of a community he’s part of, and with a palpable sense of affection. Wood recently released the album You Are Here, full of electronic beats and acoustic piano. The album is described as “warm and danceable,” and includes cameos and collaborations by Jon Birkholz, Bobbi Rush, Dan Ryan, Modern Nomad, Not Charles, and Ari Pluznik.

“My goal as a photographer is to disarm people, and curate intimate moments with the artists I photograph,” says Wood. “My approach is to use light as a 3-dimensional or sculptural form, a feature that links both my portrait and landscape work. I want my portrait photography to be exploding with color, to build a sense of belonging that can only be achieved by a thorough understanding of the specialness and sense of place in Baltimore.”

Wood moved to Baltimore twelve years ago to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art and earned a BFA in photography with a concentration in book arts. Once he began making music in Baltimore, he began photographing other musicians, with his portrait work from 2012-2016 culminating in the photo book Features. Wood continues to document a wide variety of participants from the local and regional music scene, including TT The Artist, Bobbi Rush, Dan Deacon, Ex Hex, Snail Mail, Outcalls, and more. Just like Wood’s music, his portraits are warm and also, strangely, danceable, a genuine look into Baltimore’s expanding music scene from an artist-insider’s perspective.

 

Micah E. Wood’s EP for You Are Here on display

Name: Micah E. Wood
Age: 30
Profession: Photographer/Musician/Designer
Web: micahewood.com
Instagram: @micahewood

BmoreArt: Tell us about your first camera.
Micah E. Wood: Oh man, it was a Kodak EasyShare V1253 Point and Shoot. I used all my savings from lifeguarding when I was 16 to buy it! My original plan for it was just to take pictures at concerts for fun, but it slowly turned into so much more.

Film or Digital or both? Why?
Film . . . I mean, both? . . . but mostly film. I think digital is powerful and opens up a lot of technical possibilities, but film helps me feel connected to the photography process. With film it feels effortless and I love how you can’t overthink or stress about how it appears on the screen, it’s just all intuition and self trust. Plus, you can’t beat the way film captures color!

Who is your favorite photographer and why?
When I was 16 and just getting into photography, my brother Ronin brought home Autumn De Wilde’s book all about the late great Elliott Smith. Her way of capturing musicians captivated me and made me feel like I knew him. Her work is magical. In college I got very into William Eggleston’s use of color, and the way he documented the world as he saw it has always inspired me.

What is your favorite time of day or lighting situation to shoot?
Golden Hour. It changes how everything around you looks. It may not be a unique answer, but they call it Magic Hour for a reason.

Your vision is squarely focused on Baltimore’s music scene. Can you talk about your music, and what is unique about Baltimore’s music scene and what keeps you engaged with this subject?
I started playing music when I was 6, so it’s always been around me. I started getting into photography by documenting concerts, and so when I moved to Baltimore for college twelve years ago and discovered the music scene here, it’s been hard to look away for a second. There is so much talent here—and genre blending—like no other scene I’ve ever experienced. In what other city can you walk into a place like the Crown, see a punk show, then walk into the next room for an experimental R&B show, to then go downstairs to follow it up with kimchi fries and DJs?

This series features a number of color-saturated singular portraits. What is your philosophy behind portraiture? What do you think photographic portraits have the ability to show or tell us beyond how someone looks?
My philosophy with portraiture has always been to capture people the way they want to be seen. And there’s there an art to seeing someone—which is contingent on knowing them—even if it’s just for a moment. I like to spend time with my subject, or talk to them about what type of portraits and backdrops they like. Really, my photos are collaborations with the artists themselves, and there is no room for ego when trying to capture someone properly. Photo portraits show you a small window into a person, about who they are that year or maybe just who they are in that moment. Either way, if done right you learn something about them in the stillness.

What brought you to Baltimore and when? What was your initial impression of the city and how has this evolved or stayed consistent? 
I came here for college in 2009 from Newport News, VA. We have some musical legends from VA but there wasn’t a DIY art scene. When I first moved here, I thought that Baltimore’s scene was all weird white DIY music, because that’s what got global attention. But over the last six years or so, I’ve seen a shift of attention to a variety of genres of talented artists, and it’s starting to better represent this city.

What’s your favorite piece of photo equipment these days?
I’m not a huge gear head . . . I could use the same camera for decades unless someone told me otherwise. These last few years I’ve been using a Mamiya RZ67, which is such a heavy and versatile camera.

Filters or no filters? Why?
I actually just recently started dabbling in filters. I like them on digital to help soften areas on an otherwise aggressively sharp camera.

What’s your favorite place in Baltimore to shoot, visit, or experience? 
It changes based on the time of year but in fall it’s probably Cylburn Arboretum.

 

D.Y.Y.O.
Outcalls
The Snails
Genie
Genie
Chiffon
TT the Artist
Soul Cannon
Manners Manners
Chiffon
Peach Face
Wing Dam
Ed Schrader's Music Beat
Adjective Animal (Jon Birkholz)
Joy Postell
Soduh
MegaFauna
Outcalls
Natural Velvet
Abdu Ali
MegaFauna
Modern Nomad
Mateyo
Jupiter Rex
Kotic Couture
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
Bobbi Rush
Bobbi Rush
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
Dan Deacon
Collaboh
Rovo Monty

Header Image: Dapper Dan Midas

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