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Life & Work with Michael E. Gordon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael E. Gordon.

Hi Michael E., we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I am a Los Angeles native fine art photographer specializing in California’s incredible natural landscapes. Despite keeping my home in the metropolis, most of my work and life takes place outside in California’s wildlands. I’m an avid lifetime hiker and mountaineer (I’ve climbed hundreds of California’s mountains) whose recreation and work has taken me through the local San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, throughout the Sierra Nevada, and across our great deserts. Much of my work today is focused exclusively on our unique and underappreciated deserts, the Mojave and Colorado (which collectively compose 25% of California’s landmass).

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Whatever obstacles and challenges I’ve faced in life and in art are not outside the scope of what most creatives face. Making a consistent income with one’s art has through the ages never been an easy endeavor. Doing so requires focus, commitment, drive, and passion. Conversely, I live a free and unrestricted lifestyle with very easy access to the wild places I love, where I am free to do my work with no one around to disturb or to direct me.

The biggest obstacle for aspiring photographers (commercial or fine art) is the day job, its benefits, and a consistent paycheck. There is no easy transition from day job to professional photographic artist. Your income can take a substantial hit or you might not make any money at all. But for those who can chart their own path to success (there is no prescribed route of progress from wage worker to creative; YOU have to figure out YOUR path), this lifestyle is infinitely rewarding and creatively fulfilling.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My photographs have been published in and on the covers of numerous magazines, web publications, calendars, and academic textbooks. My fine art prints are held internationally in the private collections of the United States Embassy, Kaiser Permanente; Milken Family Foundation; The Wilderness Society, and many others. My work has been awarded and recognized by the International Photography Awards, Prix de la Photographie, Paris, and Black & White Spider Awards. In early 2015, I was a featured on-camera Death Valley National Park expert in an NHK Japan full-length documentary film.

My love for and commitment to the preservation of imperiled landscapes in California and the American West reaches beyond my photography. My 20-year service as volunteer ranger in the San Gorgonio Wilderness (San Bernardino National Forest) earned a President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award. I have served on the Board of Directors for the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association and I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy. My photographs have been instrumental in the campaigns of The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, Campaign for America’s Wilderness, and National Parks Conservation Association and have helped to shape wildfire management; public lands policy; renewable energy policy; and Wilderness and National Monument designation and expansion.

I also own and operate Death Valley Photo Tours, Death Valley National Park’s leading photo tour company. I lead annually numerous photography workshops and tours for photographers of all levels and am a staff instructor for The Los Angeles Center of Photography (https://lacphoto.org).

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Be an original, be yourself. The landscape photography genre is currently suffering from a severe lack of originality and an abundance of plagiarism. Social media is certainly part of the problem (3.2 BILLION images are posted online daily). The ease, affordability, and quality of modern digital cameras make it technically easy to make copies of popular photographs and themes. Don’t do it! Social media likes and responses may feed the ego but unoriginal work will ultimately result in professional failure. My work may be recognized in some circles not because it’s technically precise but because it uniquely represents who I am and what I do with my life. Making copies of the works of others holds zero interest for me: no one is telling the visual stories I need to tell from the places I love.

Pricing:

  • From $25-2500 (please see website)

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

All Photographs ©Michael E. Gordon

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