Where are you born and when?
I was born in San Francisco, California, USA in 1967.
Where do you live?
I grew up in all around the Bay Area in Northern California. Then, at 12 moved with my parents to Los Angeles.
In my 30’s I lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong for nearly a year and half while working on a film project. I moved back to Los Angeles in 2001 and lived there until 2017.
Since 2017 I have been living just outside of Los Angeles.
When and how do you start your path in photography?
My love of photography started when my mom bought a Kodak Hawkeye 126 Instamtic camera when I was about 7 years old. I would try to take pics of everything. Most of the images didn’t turn out, but I loved trying to capture images of so many things in my childhood.
Then, for my 12th birthday, I received a 35mm camera, a Vivitar 220sl. It was about the least expensive 35mm SLR you could get, but it was a lot of money for my parents at the time. It was all manual and not a great camera, but I loved it.
I learned a lot from that all-manual camera and I began to understand more about shutter speeds, aperture, and ISO/ASA.
For my 15th birthday in 1982, I got more serious and got my first great camera, the Nikon FE. I took my first photo class in Jr. High and then the High School I attended had a renowned photo department. I learned not only about taking photographs, but also B&W and C41 color film processing, as well as B&W and Color printing. It was here that I began winning many photo contests and even an Otis Parsons College scholarship.
I continued to work on my craft and began getting paid work in the late 80’s. I shot 35mm, medium format and 4x5” view camera images. I shot everything from actor head shots, to architectural, landscape, product as well as other subjects.
But, I really loved lighting and photographing people. So I began doing more people photography. Unfortunately, just as I started to make a name for myself in the LA photo industry; my family ran into some difficult times and I had to sell off all of my film equipment and got out of photography for over a decade.
With the advent of digital equipment getting to a more affordable and higher quality level I got back into photography in 2008. I bought a Canon 5D, some lenses and some Alien Bee strobes. I leased a studio with some other photographers and started shooting again.
I shot on and off part-time until 2015, when I had to take a break due to my full-time job requirements.
I got married, moved out of LA and found a wonderful studio nearby, where I have been shooting since 2019.
Who were the three photographers that inspired you at the beginning and who are the three ones that inspire you now?
Please add links to the pages where the images are shown.
Oddly enough, the first photographer who I remember being inspired by, even as a kid in the late 70’s was Helmut Newton. His images just really captivated me. Obviously, he shoots a lot of BDSM/Erotic/Nude themes, but as a kid I didn’t really understand what that was. I was just intrigued by the interesting subjects, costumes and juxtaposition of elements in his images. He is still one of the most influential photographers on me to this day.
In the 80’s as I was developing my own style I was greatly influenced by the work of Herb Ritts, who shot iconic images of celebrities and models in LA at the time. The rich B&W images with silvery highlights really appealed to me in a different way then the more gritty style of Helmut Newton.
As I continued to evolve my own style in the 90’s, the one photographer who I felt really blended what I loved about Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts’ styles was Peter Lindbergh. He was the photographer of the supermodel era. His style was so organic. At once beautifully feminine, but also raw and edgy.
I’d be remiss to not at least mention some of the other photographers who inspired me my whole life: The great old Hollywood glamor photographers like, George Hurrell, Laszlo Willinger, as well as others. Then there was Greg Gorman, Matthew Rolston, Albert Watson, David Bailey and of course Richard Avedon.
In the last few years, as I have adopted my workflow to digital and tried to improve my skills with all the technological advances I would have to say the 3 current photographers who I learn the most from and who influence me are:
1. Lindsay Adler, for her creative use of lighting, which has always been my passion. I love how she not only explores new looks with colored gels, gobos etc, but also her love of Old Hollywood Glamor and fine art nudes.
2. Jason Lanier for his skills shooting on location with mixed lighting. He also was the first person from whom I learned about high-speed sync. I’m always impressed with his high output and skill at blending different light sources.
3. Natasha Gershon whose style is so ethereal and artistic. Her use of color, motion, light and poses continues to inspire me to try new things with my own photography.
Did you go to a school or are you a self-taught?
I had 3 years of high school photography classes. I learned all the basics from that. Since then, mostly self-taught. Lots of trial and error, and now in this modern age, I take online courses, watch YouTube videos to learn all I can about lighting, post-processing and new techniques.
Do you make photography as a living?
I have been a professional photographer a couple times in my life. I made a living with photography off and on, but never consistently, due to family obligations when I was younger.
Currently, I have a great full-time career and actually enjoy doing photography for my own edification. I shoot what I want, how I want and that is quite liberating and works for me.
I do get some paid work from time to time but it’s not my priority.
What do you like in photography, what is your motivation?
When I was a kid, I liked it because it let me capture a moment and relive it, remember it and freeze it in time.
In my 20’s and 30’s I was more about trying to find my style and make it a career.
Nowadays, I have come to realize that I like photography for basically the same reasons I did as a kid.
For me, I realized that it’s not always the final image that is the most important aspect of a shoot. The image is a reminder of the time. The place. And most important the experience of creating with the other person/people.
As I’m getting older, I become more sentimental. So for me the image is really a bookmark for a moment of my life. I have a lot of memories from the day of a shoot. Whether it’s from 30 years ago or last week, it really brings me back to that moment. I guess it’s somewhat reassuring to have those images from different times of my life. It’s definitely interesting to look over my decades of images and see how my own evolution as a person is reflected in the way my images have evolved and changed over the years.
What do you want to express or arouse in those who watch your images?
It is always my hope that an image I create brings about some emotional response in the viewer. Of course what that is will always be different for everyone. But I do hope something is stirred in them one way or another.
My photography is pretty straight-forward and of a more traditional style than many photographers out there today. I prefer simplicity in my work for the most part. I hope my work conveys some sort of emotion, feeling, or theme to the viewer. Something simple, raw, and genuine.
With my nude photography I hope it creates an appreciation for the human body. The beauty of the brave models who bare themselves so openly. It’s not to objectify them, but to appreciate them. Not all the models I shoot are the “socially accepted standard of beauty.” I don’t want them to be. I just want the viewer to appreciate what each model has to offer.
So many of the models I have photographed have shared with me some of their own struggles. Some spiritual, some physical and some emotional. But the beauty of their spirit really shines through. I hope that people can realize that even the most aspirational, beautiful, sexy etc of us are still human and still dealing with their own struggles.
I really appreciate these brave models who pose for me. There is something so inspirational in their ability to overcome fears, and social structures that attempt to suppress their need to create the art which they inherently embody. I’m fortunate that their need to express themselves, through their art just so happens to beautifully align with my own creative need.
What are your preferred moment(s) in the creation process?
When I shoot with a model, I expect to use a lot of the time just building comfort and trust so they can truly express themselves without inhibition.
There is usually a moment in a shoot when I see a model reach that point of comfort and trust. Where they fully engage with me and embrace the process. That is really the pinnacle for me. Everything flows, the model is in her zone, I’m in mine, the lighting is just right and we create effortlessly. It is often a short-lived moment but immensely satisfying.
Of course being able to show a model the images on set, and have them happy and excited is always quite rewarding.
No matter if it is a paid or trade shoot, I love to feel everyone involved in the shoot having a sense of ownership in the outcome. The more everyone is invested in the process, the better the images. So when the work I put in, gets them excited and brings out their best, we have a synergy that elevates the experience and the ultimate quality of the images.
What are your three most representative images, and why?
Please add links to the pages where the images are shown.
I feel that the work in this edition of Nudeartzine definitely capture some of my best and most representative images.
I’m always trying to show feminine beauty, power, acceptance and appreciation. I like that not all of the images have to be “pretty” and “sweet” or flatly lit and “commercial” to do that.
This is such a tough choice for me! Of course I shoot much more non-nude imagery and I have many other favorites that I feel represent my style and aesthetic as well. A few of my more recent images that I think represent my aesthetic well would be:
1. 2019-Retro Hollywood Glam which I love so much is well represented by this more updated version of that style:
2. 2020-The simplicity and feminine beauty of this young model really appeals to me. Definitely inspired by the style of Peter Lindbergh:
3. 2021-This image has become one of my favorites from the last year. It wasn’t intended to be an 80’s look, but I feel like it came out that way - and I love it:
I guess it is pretty clear that I love monochromatic imagery.
What equipment and/or techniques do you use?
It is not a matter of brands/lenses, it is mostly about analog/digital, preferred light (natural/flash), how much post-production, etc.
I love lighting. I love controlling it. So for most of my work I like to shoot in the studio. I use mostly strobes, and some LED continuous lights as well.
I have been shooting full-frame digital for about 14 years, but in the last 2 years I have added digital Medium Format to my arsenal. While I don’t think Medium Format is necessary, I love the added resolution, the Dynamic Range and the bit-depth of the image I get with it. With the current technology from the brand I use, it handles like a DSLR/MILC. Also, as I have big hands and MILC keep getting smaller and smaller, I find that the larger format bodies give me a bit better grip and comfort when shooting. My fingers find the controls more intuitively, which allows me a better and less-frustrating shooting experience.
But, I still have my full-frame MILC too and love shooting those for some types of shoots and especially on location.
I do shoot on location sometimes and it certainly presents it’s own set of challenges. Not only interiors with limited spaces, but outdoors with the ever changing light, and sometimes gusty wind. So it’s hard for me, as a solo photographer with no assistants, to shoot on location sometimes. But I am starting to do more of it and I do love mixing the light and finding creative ways to solve problems on location. And, it is nice to get out of the studio at times.
I do pretty extensive post production on my images, but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t look overdone. Sometimes, with digital, I feel it looks too clean, too sharp and so some of my post is to add a more analog feel to an image.
I do think that retouching can be unnatural and unflattering. I try to do it in a way to correct for optical and digital aberrations that are caused by shooting a 3D subject onto a 2D sensor. Some lenses, lighting, angles can either enhance or detract from a model’s look. So while I don’t try to make someone look different than they looked in real life, I try to use my retouching to restore them to how they appeared to me in person, at the time. Of course if someone has some terrible blemish(es) I want them to feel I represented in the best way possible, so I clean up those types of issues.
How and why your work as changed since you started?
Honestly, I think I have had a style in mind that I have wanted to explore for most of my life. Most of my shoots have been in some way or another an attempt to explore that style. Of course it keeps evolving, so I feel I’m always chasing it. But, that is the fun of photography. You’re never stagnant. You never arrive at a destination. So I just try to enjoy the journey and keep trying new things.
What has changed is the technology and thus my workflow. That is also a never-ending journey of it’s own. I’m always learning new things and new ways to achieve the end result I desire.
I’m now at a point in my life where I better understand what I want and how to get it in a shot. I’ve gotten through a lot of the technical understanding. Now it’s more about feel and based on my decades of shooting to just know what I need to get my shots. Not to say I don’t still struggle with technical issues from time to time, but I’m a lot more adept and just knowing what I will need for a modifier on a light, or an f-stop/shutter speed combination to get the result I want.
I still believe in the axiom, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” But now I can improvise that plan during a shoot much more easily.
What do you think about the fact that nowadays photography is mostly enjoyed on the Internet?
I struggle with how I feel about some of the ways technology has changed photography.
While I think the technology is fantastic and I for one really enjoy that I can shoot, post-process and even print huge prints without needing a darkroom and a lot of smelly chemicals; nor do I have to wait a week to see what I shot. So, I love the immediacy and that I can control the process instead of having to work with a lab or a printer. However, I think the downside is that of all the art forms, it seems photography has suffered the most from technology the onslaught of being overly accessible.
Because our cell phones all have cameras and apps, it seems the appreciation by most people of what constitutes good photography is lost. Obviously there are still those who appreciate quality photography. But I know for me, I have seen a real shift in how people judge a photo and even how models approach their jobs.
Also the advent of “auto-everything” on cameras allows so many access to photography, which is great, but that many “GWC” (Guys with a Camera) suddenly consider themselves photographers when they never put their camera on “manual” is a bit disappointing. In the end there will always be different levels of quality in anything. Those that know the difference will appreciate the higher quality work of photographers with real skill, passion, experience and standards.
Maybe more for me, because I learned on film, but I do think for any photographer, seeing your work printed on paper/canvas is really a whole different level. Seeing the image with light reflected onto it (as we see most things in reality) vs. light coming through it really adds a beauty and nuance that I don’t think translates the same online.
I’ve become more and more interested in different paper types, color-calibrations and profiling my workflow to do custom prints. Having a specific paper for a certain image really adds another level of detail, and I think, artistry to an image. Definitely something that cannot be experienced online.
Why did you decide to join the nudeartzine project?
I belong to many groups on Flickr. It’s a great way to get your work seen by others - which of me is the goal. No need to shoot images nobody will see.
But the thing I appreciate the most about the Nudeartzine group is that the administrator and creator of the group, Ugo Grandolini has a deep appreciation for photography and standards that he upholds for the images in the group.
Lots of groups are not curated very well. But the Nudeartzine group is very well-curated. I have to admit, some of my images didn’t get accepted. But I appreciate that the group has a standard and not every image should get in. It’s also impressive that the standards are consistent. While the content of the images varies, the context of the quality of the image is consistently upheld.
When I heard about this publication I was thrilled to be a part of the “Best of 2021” from the group. I don’t know which images will be in this edition beyond my own, but I am excited to see them because I know the group is always placing quality over quantity. And if this is the best of what Ugo already cultivated I’m sure it will be a wonderful collection of imagery that will only be enhanced by being printed vs. presented online.
I’m just excited to have had a few images meet Ugo’s high standards.
Would you have an insight or advice to give to whomever is watching your work and wants to learn photography?
While I’m certainly not the best photographer out there, I do think with my over 4 decades of experience I can at least give some reasonable suggestions to anyone wanting to learn photography.
1. Photo = Light / Graphy = Writing. So to me, the most important aspect is to learn lighting. Even if you shoot all natural light outdoors, you need to understand how light works, how it changes, how it will influence your images.
2. With every camera being Auto-everything I am continuously amazed at how many “photographers” or those wanting to learn photography never take the camera off Auto settings. I would say, put everything on Manual and shoot that way until you make enough mistakes to understand why your shutter speed/Aperture/ISO are so important to master. Learn how to focus your camera. Not because you will have to always, but it’s good to understand. I had so many blurry images, or over/underexposed images as a kid learning photography because everything was manual. What was sad about that back then is you didn’t know until you got your film back a week later. With digital you can see it immediately, figure it out, fix it, learn how to avoid it and usually make the changes and still get the shot. We didn’t have that advantage back in my day.
3. I’m not one of those photographers that walks around with a camera all the time. But I do think it’s good to use your camera/gear enough to know how to use it without fumbling. I generally dial my settings in before I shoot, but things change and the scene can be dynamic, so I like to adjust on the fly without having to stop everything and lose the momentum.
4. For male photographers who shoot with female models, especially nude models, I implore you to not be creepy, to stare, or make the model feel uncomfortable. Be a gentleman, be gracious and respectful. Don’t expect or want anything but the best images from your session. I try to keep it light and casual on set and not make the model feel anxious or awkward. By the time your shooting nudes you should have seen enough nude bodies in your lifetime to not feel or act awkward about it. I’ve heard so many horror stories from the models I have shot with about other photographers! I’m just amazed that any of them continue to shoot with new photographers. I feel honored that they trust me. I am friends with many of them. And it’s more important to make the shoot about the images and treating each other with respect than anything else.
What are your plans in the future?
I hope to be able to continue to shoot what I like. Mix it with some paid shoots from time to time. I am currently working on a large print/potential gallery project so I can sell large prints of some of my work. This was all tentatively planned in 2020 and then everything stopped with the pandemic. So I am hoping this comes to fruition in 2022 or 2023.
In the immediate future, I have many concepts and techniques I want to try this year, so I am booking models who suit those concepts. More variety, new things and new experiences.
I have a couple of catalog shoots tentatively booked and looking forward to those in 2022.
A lot of things got postponed or cancelled over the last two years due to the pandemic, so I hope for all of our sake, we can have a happy, healthy and more “normal” 2022.
On what page our readers can find more of your work?
My Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/people/michaelbiczo/
My Photography website: https://michaelbiczophotography.zenfolio.com/
Would you like to add something else?
I have to say, I’m just really excited to be part of this edition. I’m so thankful for people like Ugo, who have such passion for printed photography, and who put it out in the world to give other’s a chance to share their work. I’m excited to see this edition and all the work everyone will share.
Here’s to great things for all of us in 2022!