Everyone has a story, and Michael Taylor, M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., API, F-ASP, is ready to lend an ear. The seasoned portrait photographer and his wife and business partner, Monica Sigmon, M.Photog.Cr., have been taking road trips in their Airstream travel trailer, which inspired him to begin a new series, “Roadwork.” Portraits in the series are of intriguing subjects they meet on their camping journeys.
Potters, painters, welders, farmers, musicians, mechanics—people pursuing a line of work or a hobby they’re passionate about—are ideal subjects for the series, says Taylor, who notes that he prefers to search the edges of a town rather than the center of it for his stories. To his surprise, as many as 70% of the subjects he asks to photograph agree to it. “People appreciate being heard. … It doesn’t feel bad to be noticed a little bit,” he says of them, while also conceding that people tend to see him as “harmless.” When prospecting for the project, Taylor sends subjects a link to the series, lets them know he might eventually make it into a book or an exhibition, and offers to give them digital files of the images.
A wealth of visual information is included in the environmental portraits, he explains. “I like having the person as the main subject, but I love having the environment have so much in it that it becomes the second subject, telling multiple stories, and your eyes wander around the environment and come back to the main subject.” When setting up a portrait, he moves items into the foreground and background, but only with the subject’s permission. “Is this something that naturally coincides with what you do?” he asks.
“You would be amazed how little I actually pose people,” he says. His strategy: Ask the subject questions about their work, and let that passion carry the conversation. “I am very thankful that God gave me the ability to see and to have this vision, but I am also as thankful that he gave me a curiosity about people.”
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.