Interview: Photographer Mike Wakefield
Based out of New York, Mike Wakefield graciously granted us his time and shared his start to now journey through photography and we thank him so much for being such an open and inspiring person — and letting us share that!
What’s the story of how you got into photography and stuck with it?
Photography is something I’ve been interested in for as long as I can remember, but didn’t really get into it until January of 2016 so not even a year and a half ago. I remember early in high school asking my parents for a DSLR for a couple years for Christmas/birthdays and they kinda just blew it off thinking I wasn’t too serious about it, and I eventually let it fade but it was always something I was interested in. I’d try and take cool pictures with my phone or iPod, but I never really felt satisfied.
In January of 2016 I had some leftover Christmas money, and one night I decided to look for cameras on craigslist. I found a super old Canon Rebel XT with a kit lens for $150 in a town about 45 minutes away and I went to buy it that night, behind my parents’ back. They didn’t find out I had a camera for almost a month, and since I was using it a ton they finally got behind it. I fell in love with it right away, and using it to stay busy definitely got me through some rough times. I’ve also made so many amazing friends along the way who support me 110% with everything that I do, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
How would you describe your vision and style?
I can’t really say I fit into one specific style. I do things like landscape, portraits, & lifestyle, and because of where I live vs. where I go to school it’s all very different. I live in suburban New York about an hour drive north of NYC, so I have the best of both worlds; the city to the south, and the Hudson Valley mountains all around me. I also go to school in New Hampshire tucked away in the White Mountains. All three areas bring different things to the table when it comes to the way I take pictures.
During a shoot I’m a very reactive person. I don’t really do too much planning before it. I (or “we” if there is a model) will pick a location, once in a while I’ll have an input on the outfit, and we’ll just go shoot. I don’t really ever have a planned mood or theme, and sometimes I like it that way, other times I don’t. But, I know it’s how my best work comes out. When I see something I like I set up the shot and take it, rather than planning for specific shots.
What do you aim for every time you pick up your camera?
I just want to have fun and document a memory. When I go out by myself to shoot landscapes I try and capture something to give people a look into where I am or what I’m doing, almost even make them jealous of what I get to see in a way.
I have the luxury of being in such beautiful places like New Hampshire and the Hudson Valley in New York. When I go on a portrait shoot I try to capture something that sums up either the mood of the time we sent together, or just something to make the person feel good about themselves. One of my absolute favorite things about photography is sending somebody the edits and getting amazing reactions from them.
What’s the greatest thing photography has done for you?
I’m gonna have to go back to talking about the friends I’ve made along the way for this one. I have such a solid group of friends in the community, whether they’re models or photographers, who I wouldn’t even know if it weren’t for picking up a camera even though they live right around where I do or go to school with me. It’s even helped me make friends across the country, which I think is awesome.
What is it about photography that nothing else does?
Photography allows me to create and express myself. Ive tried drawing and it didn’t do it for me. I’ve tried writing and it didn’t do it for me. I searched for a way to express myself for so long and photography allows me to do that. I think everybody should have some sort of expressive outlet if they can.
What is something that had to happen for you to get as far as you have?
I’m gonna mention my friends I’ve made for a 3rd time. If it weren’t for some of the friends I’ve made along the way I don’t know where I’d be. Between the tips, invites on shoots, friends to model for me and allow me to practice, and opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten any other way, they’re definitely some of the biggest reasons why I am where I am. Not only do they do all of these things for me, they inspire me to never stop shooting and to always work on getting better. We’re a team and we help each other however we can.
What is your favourite experience being a photographer has brought you?
Without photography I don’t think I would have seen half the beautiful things and places that I’ve seen, because it forces me to get out and adventure to look for different things to shoot. When I’m bored at school or at home and no one is around, I just go out by myself driving around looking for new things and places. Sometimes I stumble across really cool things that I know I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t have that intention.
What is your favourite quote of all time?
I’ve probably heard better quotes than this but the quote I wrote in my senior yearbook is the only thing that can pop into my head. It’s from a song called Where You’ve Been by City Lights.
It’s not about where you’ve been, it’s where you want to be. It’s not about where you’re from, it’s where you see yourself when all the world has gone mad and you’re the last one left standing.
It reminds me to keep dreaming and hoping for bigger and better things because at the end of the day the only thing that should matter to me is whether I’m happy with my life.