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Photographer's Showcase: Michael Jackson's A Child's Landscape

photo-eye Gallery Photographer's Showcase: Michael Jackson's A Child's Landscape photo-eye Gallery is pleased to announce a new portfolio by Michael Jackson, A Child's Landscape. Jackson’s atmospheric black & white images explore an unknown environment as a child would – through a lens of adventure, drama, and imagination.

Michael Jackson, Seal RockArchival Pigment Print, 7.5"x10" Edition of 15 $800

photo-eye Gallery is pleased to announce A Child’s Landscape by Michael Jackson, new to the Photographer’s Showcase. Jackson’s atmospheric black & white images explore an unknown environment as a child would – through a lens of adventure, drama, and imagination. By way of the studio, a water tank, and a great deal of ingenuity, Jackson transforms a simple rock collection into sublime and foreboding seascapes reminiscent of a forgotten past. Each archival pigment print is made on delicate rice paper, and is available in small editions.

Erin Azouz:   Tell us how you got started in photography.

Michael Jackson:  I started off in art as a painter. I studied at West Dean College in England and eventually became an apprentice to the lecturer there — Chris Baker. His studio was an old cowshed in the middle of the countryside. This feeling of remoteness in a rural location has been important to me ever since. I eventually set up my own studio in an old stately home and after a while I moved from painting with oils to charcoal. The next step was seeing some black and white film negatives. I was completely taken by them — which moved me to buy a film camera and start to process my own film. There is a direct connection between the textures and tones of charcoal and all my photographic work.

EA:   How did this body of work come about?

Michael Jackson
 Looking Out to Sea From Glass Bay 
– Archival Pigment Print, 9"x 7"
Edition of 15, $800
MJ:   I moved to Wales and spent many years concentrating on a single location on the Pembrokeshire coast — Poppit Sands. The success that I had with this work made the obsession snowball for the first few years and it became a large part of my life. But eventually I realized that I just cannot be on location all the time — especially when it is raining. This frustration lead me to look for another subject that I could work on and study when I could not get to Poppit Sands. I tried to keep my mind as open to possibilities as I could, while still being focused on aspects of an image that I love. Eventually, after a lot of dead ends, I discovered that the work at Poppit would actually feed me with suggestions to the new work, and thinking this way lead me to try out many different ideas in the studio. Being in this state of mind — where every small thing can be considered a possible move forward, makes you incredibly aware of how your imagination can connect with the simplistic of things. Eventually I was walking my dogs one day when I noticed a pile of frost damaged rocks — and I imagined cliffs and terrible coastal storms. Everything clicked and I collected as many rocks as I could and took them back to the studio.

I think that in reality a photographer doesn't have many different bodies of work — they just have one. Everything feeds off everything else and it is all connected.

On one level with A Child's Landscape I am trying to capture the excitement of the land as a child would imagine it — full of adventure, darkness, terrible storms and sometimes horror. I see the images as if they were taken by explorers discovering a new land. On another more personal level they represent a turbulence and a desire for a world that is more in my control. It is a world of my making — somehow connecting back to childhood. I think that being honest with yourself and getting to the root of the reason for creating something is important if you are to create something truthful to yourself. Each image in A Child's Landscape is both an adventure and link to a part of me that was lost in childhood. I think that link is evident in a lot of people's work — whether they know it or not.

Michael Jackson, Parkin's Peril at Noon, 2013 – Archival Pigment Print. 7"x 9" Edition of 15, $800

EA: Tell us about the process of making this work.

MJ:  The process came about after a number of discoveries whilst working on other projects. As I said earlier, I feel that all projects feed into one another.

While using film to photograph Poppit I found that holding the negatives up to the light gave me access to a beach that I had never seen before. I realized that, really, the negative is the true physical thing that is created when using film, and these negatives showed me a new world on the beach.

Michael Jackson, Iceberg Near Mann Point –
Archival Pigment Print, 8"x 8"
Edition of 15, $800
This discovery was playing on my mind when I also started to photograph items moving underwater – using an old fish tank. Then, I had a light bulb moment when I discovered the rocks while walking the dogs. As I said before, when you are looking for new things over a long period of time you find that all sorts of ideas popping up. I took the rocks home and photographed them underwater. It took a long time to fine tune the technique. I discovered that I could use my hands to burn and dodge as they were reflected in the fish tanks' glass – kind of like burning and dodging in a darkroom. I used film all the time at the start of the series and seeing the negatives made me realize how the negative of the image made things so much more interesting. And then finally I discovered that throwing in a handful of breadcrumbs just before shooting added a certain effect that I couldn't get anywhere else. I tried lots of different things in the water but breadcrumbs were the best.

I studied the coastline in Pembrokeshire and took rough pencil sketches of how the cliffs sit in the sea and how the horizon fits in with everything else. You have to get some basics right with the composition to make an exciting image.

The rocks that I use fascinate me. I love rock; especially the ability is has to have a similar structure no
Michael Jackson, Kenny CragArchival Pigment Print
8"x 8", Edition of 15, $800
matter what size it is. A 2-inch rock has basically the same structure and features as a 500ft cliff – that is why the scale on these images can suggest something much larger. They are never completely perfect, and I wouldn't want them to be. I want the viewer to see the image as something created in my imagination – the same way that a child would embellish a landscape with their thoughts of adventure and excitement. It isn't a real landscape – it is a child's landscape.

What excited me was that I knew that this process was completely mine – nobody had done it quite this way before – and I think that is the advantage of taking the hard route and not basing your work on what has gone before you. Making discovery after discovery leads you along a new road.

With these photographs there is a need to switch from disbelief to belief when you look at the image. If you make that jump, remove that sense of disbelief, then you kind of revert to a more open way of looking – more of a childlike way. And when that happens your imagination allows you to smell the sea, feel the storm wind against your face, hear the gulls in the distance. You accept what is in front of you and it all comes alive.

View Michael Jackson's A Child's Landscape portfolio
Read the article on the BBC

For more information about Michael Jackson's work or to purchase a photograph, please contact the gallery at or call 505-988-5152 ext. 202.

Michael Jackson, Ponderous Point at Sunset – Archival Pigment Print, 7.5"x 9", Edition of 15, $800