The moment I first saw Michael Knapstein’s “Midwest Memoir” series, I felt as if I’d been transported back to a place I hold dear and know well, but is made entirely new through his stunning images.
Michael’s work is featured in the current issue of Adore Noir magazine. In the interview, he says, “This is a very personal body of work for me. It is an homage to the area where I grew up, still live and love. An area that I think has a unique personality and distinctive visual style. Honest. Modest. And often overlooked.”
I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, but my father’s family is from Indiana. Visiting my great-grandmother on her farm as a child left a huge impression. My husband is from rural Wisconsin and spending time as an adult at his family’s rural property allows me the same simple childhood joys I had as a kid on the farm when time still stretched out beyond the horizon and no clocks were ticking. Watching the big flat-bottomed Midwestern clouds form from out of nowhere and take over the enormous sky.
Looking for deer in the back woods. Getting up at dawn to walk across the hay field to catch the rising sun light up the farm pond. Glossy cornfields I could disappear into for hours — so vast and important to life & landscape that when my great-grandfather saw an ocean for the first time on a trip to Oregon in his 70s, he imagined all the corn that could be grown in that “wasted space” of the sea.
I love Michael’s strong and classic but dreamy black and white and carefully composed images that so beautifully buck trends in contemporary photography yet truly speak to the present.
Michael said he wanted to create new work that looked like classic images he created years ago on fine-grained medium format film. He began with RAW files using Nikon, Leica and Fuji digital cameras, then created a split-toning formula that simulates the look of toned prints he used to make in the darkroom. The images are beautifully printed on warm-tone paper. His effort in this regard is highly successful.
Via email, Michael said Memoir is still in progress. “I have been working on it since 2010 when I sold my advertising agency and ‘retired’ to do photography once again. It continues to grow…now approaching 500 images or so.”
“I have been adding to this portfolio for nearly eight years,” he says in Adore Noir. “It is part romantic and nostalgic and equal parts realistic and documentary. In a way, I try to force myself to look at the present as if it were already in the past. What sums up the essence of the American Midwest in a single image? What will we miss the most once it is gone?”
Michael currently has work in two shows: Royal Photographic Society’s 160th Annual International Photography Exhibition…and Wisconsin Artists Biennial exhibit at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, Wisconsin that runs through April 9.
**All images copyright Michael Knapstein.