Growing up with a photographer for a father and a darkroom in his basement, it seems only natural that Brooklyn-based Michael Marcelle would eventually have a go at the medium himself. “He’d always give me cameras and rolls of film and set me loose in the backyard and then we’d develop the film together downstairs – which was equal parts thrilling and scary because I was totally terrified of the basement when I was a kid,” Michael told us.
It was whilst studying at Bard College that Michael began to take photography seriously, however, under the instruction and encouragement of tutor An-My Le. “My first project was a series of fake crime scene photos, which were definitely not great but An-My was very encouraging and saw that I was trying to do something, even if it was very, very silly and self-serious.” Since then Michael’s style has come on leaps and bounds leaving him with a portfolio of incredibly intriguing and surreal images.
His work uses photography as a means to create a strange, altered version of our world: “I focus on the intersection of genre, queerness, fantasy and special effects to make pictures that feel like an uncanny inversion of our own reality, like a broken funhouse mirror in a gay haunted house,” he explains. There is a tension apparent in his images that feel creepy at times but somehow still demonstrate a sense of humour. For example, in his series Kokomo and Third Skin, Michael documented his family and hometown in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Instead of depicting the destruction first-hand, Michael imagined “that the storm tore a hole in space and time and made pictures accordingly.” It was a way to talk about family, nostalgia and death through the gauzy lens of the low budget horror films he grew up on.
His work has a unique style with images often feeling unconnected or random, however they all demonstrate an awe in the strangeness of the world that surrounds us. Although not sharing subject matter or narrative, they are all connected by Michael’s desire to transform the world around him through photography, special effects and colour.
Michael’s series Kokomo is now available as a book, published by Matte Editions, which you can purchase here.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.