A few words about the images in the galleries:

 

While most of the color images have been scanned from 35mm positive transparencies, some of them were scanned from analog prints.The depth of some colors and the blackness of the shadows varies between those two, with the deeper tones in some cases a little lighter in the images that were scanned from the transparencies. All of the black-and white images were scanned from analog prints.

 

For the transparencies, I used a Prime Film 7200 35mm slide scanner; it has performed well enough but has tended to give a color cast to some of the images, affecting different colors and densities within those photographs in different ways. I have worked -- and am yet working, it would be fair to say -- on better balancing the color in these various galleries' images. If you happen to end up 'seeing red'  or 'feeling a little green' as you scroll through the photos, for that I apologize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael E. J. Stanley and His Photography

Some Aspects of the Work and How It Was Done

...and a Bit About the Photographer as Well

Over the west end of the Tsugaru Strait; a self-portrait.
Over the west end of the Tsugaru Strait; a self-portrait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WELL, HERE GOES...

 

I am going to touch on a few things about the photographic and photojournalistic work that I did between 1981 and 2005 or so. For the sake of brevity and clarity on this site, I will from this point onward use the term 'photo' to cover both photography in and of itself as well the art and craft of photojournalism. When necessary I will use the specific terms on their own. I still work with a camera on personal photo projects, but have long since ceased to seek or accept any assignments.  My university work has kept me busy, and I have been organizing gallery shows from time to time, as well as consulting in the fields of art, the media, and university-level education.

 

I was born and raised in Southern California, after the age of eight growing up quite close to the ocean. I had a deep and early interest in the wonders of the sea combined with an unreasoning fear of the water; it did take a while indeed to reconcile the two. On land, there was a youthful, exploratory penchant for trekking through the local eucalyptus forest and clambering around the nearby beachside cliffs. I was also fascinated by aviation, occasionally dreaming of becoming a test pilot and later cluttering up the house with aircraft models. I was told -- I certainly don't remember this myself -- that my first word was 'airplane,' this due to the fact that we lived under an airport landing approach route and when I was in the backyard playpen I would gesture at the aircraft passing overhead.  Whatever adult was with me apparently aped my gesture and sounded out the syllables 'air - plane'; my world view was being formed.  This may be a stunning example of the Whorfian hypothesis at work.

 

My father was a Hollywood cinematographer, which resulted in my showing an interest in working with a camera from a young age. By my mid-teens, I was already fairly accomplished in most aspects of black-and-white photography. However, from the time I entered college in the mid-1960s, I drifted away from things photographic. This hiatus lasted until the late 1970s, when I began to revive the skills and senses in earnest.  The main result of that revival was my career in Japan, some images from which are displayed in the galleries on this site.

 

 

I did not plan all this; I never really thought that I would get to the places I have been to in the course of my career, or have the chance to see so much 'behind the scenes.'  In the earlier years in Japan, I really had no firm idea about what direction I was moving in.  After a few years I thought it likely that I would return again to California with the halo of 'expert' or 'veteran'  and there apply the results of what I had learned and experienced.  Such was not to be.

 

So much was serendipity. One opportunity would lead to another, and then again to another, with ever-changing challenges in subject matter, technical proficiency, and photographic or photojournalistic approach.  While certainly not getting what anyone would call rich in monetary terms, what I was able to see and experience included much that is beyond a calculable price.  The result: basically I would do the professional part of it again, but I would thoroughly wish to apply just a few important lessons learned from experience to the personal side of things, especially in regard to balancing all this with family concerns. I would certainly make some big changes there if I could retrace my path.  As for the work itself, I would want more of it, with more and bigger challenges.

Taking a break from some underwater shooting in a Los Angeles pool.
Taking a break from some underwater shooting in a Los Angeles pool.

In late 1979, I relocated to Japan, at first working in overseas film and video coordination for Japanese production firms. However, my photographic skills were soon put to use and after a short time, I had essentially hung out my shingle as a freelance magazine photojournalist. My forte then began to evolve; my work centered on multi-page articles with the photos done 'live' and on location. Studio photography held no interest for me. One common denominator of my various efforts tended to be that of difficulty; I have enjoyed working with technical or situational challenges. On earlier assignments I was often paired with a writer, but by the late 1980s I was most often working alone and producing both the text and photos for articles across a spectrum of genres.

 

While the great majority of my work has been for Japanese publishers, doing that has afforded me the opportunity to work in various places around the globe. During the 1980s especially, it was a point of pride for each of the various publishers to have had a number of contributors on the move in various parts of the world.  The publishers were flush with advertising revenue and spent with a verve as long as good, usable, and preferably one-of-a-kind pieces were the result.  They did not want to use stock photos, even though such would have been an order of magnitude cheaper. At the risk of sounding trite, I have to admit that in coming to Japan I had the chance to discover the world - and actually get paid in the process.

Having a stop on a long and dusty journey...
Having a stop on a long and dusty journey...
Setting an off-camera strobe in the tavern of a tiny mountain village in Spain's Picos de Europa.
Setting an off-camera strobe in the tavern of a tiny mountain village in Spain's Picos de Europa.
Ready for takeoff in a Japan Air Self-Defense Force trainer.
Ready for takeoff in a Japan Air Self-Defense Force trainer.

As all visible colors come from mixing the three primary colors, so it is that the conceptual aspects of photographic images are also based on three primary 'elements'. These three are factual recording, interpretation or expression, and complete abstraction.  Every photograph has  each of these. Sometimes there is a symmetry between the three; at other times one element is so overwhelming that the effects of the other two are all but undetectable. My photographs here are largely weighted with the first two of the elements mentioned, although there are a few that swerve in the direction of 'pure' abstraction.

 

As I have looked through my files in preparing a suitable variety of photographs to show here, I have at times been a bit taken aback by some images that I had completely forgotten.  Seeing them anew and far less dominated by my original editorially-oriented mindset was a bit of a creative jolt and I am now seeing some aspects of my own work that I had not recognized or had even overlooked entirely. Many images now have a far more interpretive or even abstract 'feel' than they did when I first saw them. The 'factual record' aspect in many cases has dimmed considerably.  This evolution must surely be helped along by the simple process of forgetting details over the years, a side benefit of aging.

In preparation for inaugurating this site renewal, I have selected and scanned a variety of analog tranparencies (the far majority) and prints (the minority).  The selection so far represents only a tiny fraction of what I have shot over the years, and I will be changing and adding to the content here on a fairly regular basis.  The present spectrum of images may seem weighted in favor of certain locations and topics; I would have to admit that the largest factor in that imbalance may be just 'luck of the draw.'  I can assure you that things will even out as I scan a larger number of photographs.

With a feral boar...a big one; Northern Territory, Australia.
With a feral boar...a big one; Northern Territory, Australia.
Unusually, above the sea's surface instead of beneath it, here among the isles of Eouldaob, Palau's Rock Islands.
Unusually, above the sea's surface instead of beneath it, here among the isles of Eouldaob, Palau's Rock Islands.
In a JASDF F-15DJ, high over Hokkaido.
In a JASDF F-15DJ, high over Hokkaido.

The collection of informal portraits here shows a number of different environments that I worked in.  When working, I usually paid no attention to making sure I had souvenir photos -- something I now regret, I must say.  I am sure that I may stumble on a few as I slog through the piles of photo files that yet await my efforts.  If I find a gem of a portrait or two, I shall certainly include them here.

After an F-16 flight at Misawa AB, Japan.
After an F-16 flight at Misawa AB, Japan.
Dressed for a bilateral ROK/US ground forces' exercise.
Dressed for a bilateral ROK/US ground forces' exercise.
With a feral buffalo, 'shot' with both camera and rifle.
With a feral buffalo, 'shot' with both camera and rifle.