Sunday, November 9, 2008


We continue with our features on photographers. This is another member of the Photographers of Etsy. I would like to introduce you to

Please come and meet Michelle -

Briefly describe what you make?

I’m a photographer and I work mainly in black and white. If I had to pick one word to describe my style, it would be “intimate:” I tend to fill my lens with the subject of my shot rather than stand back for a wider portrait.

What mediums do you enjoy working in most?

My favorite medium used to be film – it took me a very long time to embrace the digital age! For years, despite being a poor student, I’d spend my money on the best black and white film I could afford. In 2003 my husband bought me a wonderful Fuji digital camera (which I still use) and I remember staring at the box, horrified! A digital camera? What would I ever do with that?? But I’ve learned to embrace the amazing benefits of technology and Photoshop, yet I still harbor my love for film. Recently I’ve been using an ancient Kodax Duaflex viewfinder that belonged to my great aunt – I’m in love! I get a wonderful, grainy quality to my shots that I just adore.

How long have you been creating craft?

I’ve been wandering around with a camera attached to me for 12 years. I found my father’s 1972 Asahi Pentax when I was in college and I snuck off to Europe with it during a semester abroad my junior year. He wasn’t amused! I’ve been amassing a huge library of images – literally thousands – since then and only recently decided I needed to do something with them. I have two young boys and people have asked me why I’m putting myself out there now, and my answer is this: just because you are caring for others doesn’t mean you should stop caring about yourself and your own passions.

How did you get started?

I started photographing in earnest when my parents bought me my own Pentax – same make and model as my father’s – for my college graduation. I went off to Oxford for graduate school and this is where my poor student days really materialized! But still I bought my film and traveled all over The British Isles, Western Europe and Scandinavia, with my camera. One night a rowing teammate of mine named Emma was looking at my negatives and she offered to take me to the dark room in the Biology Department where she photographed and developed cellular structures of infectious diseases: I was hooked! I learned that capturing the image is only half the journey – the rest happens when you bring that image to life on paper. Now I use a virtual darkroom, but for me the same passion is there: I’ll still experiment with one image for hours until I get it right.

Where does the name of your shop come from?

The name of my shop is from the initials of my full name: Michelle Katharine Ciarlo-Hayes. Kind of a long shop name when all spelled out, so I thought I’d shorten it (and use lower-case letters, as a tribute to e.e. cummings and bell hooks…yes, I do have degrees in English and Women’s Studies!)

What would you most want people to know about your work?

I want people to know what a labor of love each public image is, and that there are at least 50 shots nearly identical to that are never seen. I’m a big believer in over-shooting: if I click my shutter 200 times, I might find 2 or 3 images that really speak to me. Not every shot I take is worthy of being in my store, and I never offer anything that I don’t truly love.

What words of advice do you have for other artists?

Know your strengths and what you love – it’s great to admire other people’s work and to try new styles, but I think each of us have a special voice. Your voice will never sound like anyone else’s, nor should it, so you have to be confident in your own talents! In that same vein, you also have to be courageous and put yourself out there: I’ve been accepted into some amazing shows this past year in Philadelphia and beyond. I was scared to death, but I took the leap, submitted my work here and there, and it really paid off. If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will.


You must go to this shop and see the wonderful work that Michelle does in black and white and color photography. And in the shop you will find some surprises as Michelle also has made a few tote bags!

And of course, do not miss the new work that has been added to Past Perfect!



Julie said...

Wonderful interview with a talented photographer!

mkcphotography said...

Thank you so very much for featuring my work this week: I'm really honored and truly appreciate the fact that you're helping other photographers gain exposure. Thank you!!

Allie said...

What a great interview! Thank you PastPerfect and Michelle for helping us learn more about such an incredible photographer!

Judi FitzPatrick said...

A wonderful interview of a great photographer!