Michael Creagh is a New York Fashion Photographer specializing in advertising, catalogs, magazines, models and editorial work.
Name: Michael Creagh
Birthday: December 4
College: Northwestern University BA, Sociology and Philosophy University of Sussex MA, International Relations
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Favorite Movie: Defending Your Life – Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep
Favorite Food: Pizza
Favorite Quotes: If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. — Henry Ford Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. — Oscar Wilde
Why are you an artist, and when did you first become one? I don’t know if I can look at any specific day or decision. I don’t even consider myself an artist now. Really, I rejected a conventional job and began a life process to do something more creative and interesting. After I graduated college, I began applying for jobs and absolutely hated it. I couldn’t envision working at any of them. Instead, I moved to the South to France with the intention to write. I never finished a page! But I became obsessed with photos.
Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it?
I am very social in how I work. There is no single thing or idea. Instead, I am analytical and like to brainstorm ideas of what interests me and the key partners I am working with. Some of this is from necessity, as Fashion is specifically collaborative. You need to source clothes and models: the things you need are physical. Often there is no money and many doors are closed. Some creative forms can be done just with paint and your imagination. Fashion photography is not one of those. So you learn to collaborate and work together to open up and create something beautiful.
How do you build it in your mind before you start?
I take it one piece at a time – very practical. After the idea is conceived, I start thinking very simply about my gut reactions and feelings to the subject. I don’t have one specific framework or photo style I work in, so I have to decide the most basic questions every time; black and white or color, studio or location, modern or traditional, and upbeat or formal, etc. It all comes from feelings, tastes, even biases about the subject. I also need to fit my feelings with those of fashion stylist and what clothing is available to source. There are seasons and their are fashion shows and showrooms. If the style I am thinking isn’t in the trends, then the vision changes out of necessity. It can be limiting sometimes, but at other times it can be inspiring. The work of creative designers and great models can propel the shoot into wonderful directions.
What’s the best advice anyone gave you? I don’t know. I have definitely gotten a lot of it! New Yorkers and fashion people are opinionated. I do remember my first photo advice from my late grandfather. We were on a guys vacation before I ever conceived of photography as a life pursuit. I tried to take a crazy/dumb tourist photo of him in Toronto with a cheap little film camera. A week later, I had the film and the picture didn’t work out as I had hoped. He told me there wasn’t a straight line between what is in my mind and the photo that comes out of the camera. He meant it in a technical sense of exposure, settings and balancing light; but it has come to mean much more to me.
Do you suffer for your art? No. It has afforded me great pleasure and a career. I think I actually suffer more when I move away from the art side and toward the business of photography. Those days, I don’t enjoy my work as much and sometimes dislike it. Photography is a pursuit that is practical and in demand, and it is very easy to work for others instead of yourself. The benefits are money and I think the goal of most of us are how to bring those money days more in line with the amazing creative days. It can be difficult.
How would you define yourself as an artist?
I actually don’t. I think of myself as interested in beauty and the world. I like people and enjoy creating. Art is something that is more formal and defined. There is an Art World that largely rejects people like me in favor of its own preferred clique. I am fine with that. I like art and find many works inspiring, but I don’t think people should take it more seriously than any other pursuit. Art is less interesting than driving a bus. If you don’t believe, imagine what it would be like to try a drive a city bus for the first time. The feelings would be incredible.
What inspires you to work? In New York, you feel like you are in the middle of it. I am already intwined and involved, so many influences and projects are abound. Even if I try to sit home all day and do nothing, I get phone calls, texts, and tagged. Photography is a constantly moving. What I feel I need to do, is get past all the things that call to me and focus on specific projects that I have a true interest in.
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art performances today? Thank you. I feel I could be even more involved. I enjoy independent films and go very often with my friend. We attend a lot of screenings at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and IFC theater. Sometimes the director and an actor will be there. There are a lot of amazing ideas out there and people creating them. But we tend to never see them, and watch the same stories over and over on TV and Youtube videos. Don’t get me wrong. I like those stories too. There is a great comfort in seeing the same thing again.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?
I would lose a part of me that I really like. Life can be unexpected, even when you should expect it. So the question maybe be very foretelling in later years. But people are adaptable, and I hope I could transition happily into another stage of my life. I have often considered the path I took, and wondered if I could have been happy if I took a conventional job after college. I think I actually could of. I am well rounded, like people, and I could have done a lot of things.
What other interests do you have outside of art?
I am an avid reader with several specific subjects of interest. I like and follow politics closely. And I enjoy anything that study the brain and how people think and act. I am especially
intrigued by the earliest human history and how knowledge builds through time. If you take the Isaac Newton quote, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” and expand that to look at humanity through that context, the world can be pretty fascinating. The advent of several technologies is opening up so much insight to our history. At the same time, the accumulation and sharing of knowledge is changing in exponential ways. It is a really amazing time in our understanding of the past and who we will become.
What are your next projects? I have some goals this year. It is hard to be specific because they are wide ranging and varied. I want to connect more with a few specific groups of people and have fun doing it.