Michael Zuhorski

Eyes Make The Horizon

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Interview with Michael Zuhorski

Tell us about the concept behind Eyes Make the Horizon…

Originally I set out to create a body of landscape photographs in which the psychological would bear heavily upon the physical. I aim to evoke a sense of place highly dependent on the viewer’s associations. In this, my intention is to emphasize the role that the self plays in understanding one’s surroundings.

What originally drew you to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?

My connection with the region has been fostered since childhood. The Northern Great Lakes are where I first developed a reverence for nature and solitude – both of which have been critical to my personal and creative growth. As an adolescent, I began to develop a visual language through which to communicate my experience of place, largely rooted in my experiences in this landscape. After college, the opportunity arose for me to move to Marquette, on Lake Superior. I saw this as a chance to intensively continue the development of this visual language.

There’s a sense of mystery, and perhaps a slightly ominous mood to some of the images. Do you feel like that’s a reflection of how you see the Northern Michigan landscape? 

Ominousness within the work is not intentional, although I’m pleased that it comes across. Increasing human encroachment is a reality in the Upper Peninsula. If there is a sense of foreboding within the mood of this work, perhaps it speaks to this fact.

I do think that it’s a reflection of how I view Northern Michigan. My regard for this landscape, which is inexorably linked to my conception of this work, is one of spiritual connectivity. A sense of mystery would seem to me to be a natural expression of that.   

How do see this series in relation to your previous body of work, “Natural Occurrence and Construction?”

I think this body of work is much looser and more open to free association than Natural Occurrence and Construction. In both series, there is a language of decontextualization and defamiliarization of subject matter. Eyes Make the Horizon takes this a step further by more thoroughly obfuscating references to relatable experience.

How do you see this work in the context of photographic tradition?

Traditionally landscape photography has focused primarily on documentation of site. With this comes an inclination to portray a landscape in terms of its objective aspects. Such photographs are often experientially relatable. In this series, I’ve taken a decidedly more phenomenological standpoint towards portraying this landscape, accentuating the subjective, tacit qualities of my experience of place.

What type of equipment are you using?

I shoot with a Canon 5D SR, a Canon 50mm, and a Manfrotto tripod with a geared head.

How do you feel that equipment effects your image making?

Since I grew up using digital equipment, I feel incredibly comfortable with it. Using a digital camera allows me to work methodically and deliberately without having to be conscious of the budgetary restrictions that accompany the use of large or medium format film.

Tell us about your shooting process…

I work quite slowly, usually in low light. Choosing subject matter is a wholly intuitive process for me. I most often take into consideration formal qualities, and the possibility of a wide breadth of meaning and interpretation.

Many of the photographs in this series came from returning to the same places repeatedly, observing and photographing small changes in the landscape.

Do you always go out looking to make photographs, or do you sometimes stumble upon them incidentally? 

A bit of both, but mostly I go out specifically with the intention of making photographs. Often I’ll get in my car, choose a route impulsively, and photograph along the way. Much of the time my destination will be completely unknown to me. If or when I arrive somewhere I’ll walk or hike in search of photographs until dark.

If I stumble upon something I’m interested in photographing and don’t have my equipment, I’ll return to the site as soon as possible. Although, most often upon returning I find that things have changed to the point where the subject is gone.

Do you have any plans for future bodies of work?

I don’t have any set plans, but there has been a new pattern emerging in recent photographs I’ve made outside the context of this body of work. I’ll have to wait and see where it leads.