The girl can make an ordinary yard bush look like a dream come true (serious.) Wait, back up. I have to tell you that I’ve been in love with Michelle’s work before I ever knew her name. It wasn’t until a friend emailed me her portfolio site last year, that I realized the framed photos I’d been drooling over in the Wexner Center Store, and the album cover I’d smiled at in a record shop the week before could all be traced back to her.
Come to find out, Michelle isn’t just a photographer. In addition to her background in Art Librarianship at The Ohio State History of Art Department, Michelle is an artist through-and-through. Often, I’ll find that we’ve been drawn to similar things—and what a thrill for any creative—it’s as if I’ve been allowed to slip on on a new pair of glasses and admire those things with more clarity. Whether photographing a jewelry line, street art, or travels with her husband…creating original Blimp Rizzy clutches, designing a themed newspaper, or capturing the mundane adventures of family members (you must follow her on Instagram for Aunt Doll alone), there’s something bewitchingly natural, yet carefully crafted about Michelle’s approach.
Michelle agreed to let me ask her some questions. So let’s get on with it—The Q’s with Michelle Maguire!
Q. In your bio, you describe yourself as highly organized (lucky you!) I have to work at it. Let’s imagine you were to appear to me in a mysterious dream and divulge the secret to being organized. What would that secret be?
I am organized in that I like to arrange things by like items. I think that’s why it made sense to me to become a librarian. And I make a lot of lists. And I love to prioritize. But I have giant piles of things everywhere. Organized piles. But giant ones. My mom and husband like to talk about how I can really tear up a room. The secret is this: make yourself some piles, shake your head in disbelief at their overwhelming height from across the room, and then go out for pizza. Those damn things can be tended to tomorrow.
Q. In your bio, you say you love to collaborate (lucky you!) It doesn’t come naturally to me. Let’s imagine you were to appear to me in a mysterious dream and divulge the secret to collaboration. What would that secret be?
There are a lot of things that I like about the nature of collaborating: such a project typically has an end in sight which is exciting to work towards; being exposed to someone else’s process and habits is always really interesting to me and results in the gleaning of some new skills; the human behavior side of it is great and fascinating. And my feeling is if it was a rewarding working relationship that last time around, then why not keep it moving on to the next thing, and so on…hopefully picking up others who are good fits, too, along the way. When it works, it’s so nice to be invested in something with a partner or a team.
But there’s so much that goes into finding someone you work well with — not only is it crucial to share a similar (and/or complimentary) aesthetic but also to be able to get along really well with that person, to spend long hours with each other, under pressure (especially if there’s a client involved), when you’re hungry, and often tired, and then on top of all that, hopefully your skill sets compliment each other’s. Like everything, I think, it’s best to not really ever be looking for such a person or thing. But when you spot it by accident, grab that old bastard tight and don’t let go. I work with my friend Sally MacLeod as much as possible. I feel really comfortable taking risks with her, and we always feel like an equal, unified duo. It feels so good to bounce ideas off of each other — fleshing things out, giving things some time and space to evolve and take shape. I also really love to join forces on projects with my husband Aaron Beck. We go out, I make images, and he writes about the goings-on surrounding the gathering of those images. We both notice and are drawn to so many of the same things, but he was born to put those feelings and sentiments and run-ins into vibrant, funny, observant, thoughtful words. Whenever I read his account of something that we’ve witnessed together, I think “that is EXACTLY how it happened. That dude’s hair WAS a giant bit of steel wool!”
Q Can you describe your very first memory of making something?
I’m standing on a chair — I’m probably 5 — assisting my grandma with her weekly pizzelle production. My grandpa is parked at the kitchen table playing a game of solitaire. Every now and then I look over at him and he winks at me.
That house is a time capsule and a really powerful, nostalgic, cozy place for me. My grandpa’s been gone almost 2 years and my grandma moved out of it a few months ago and is now staying in a nursing home. I’m having a hard time accepting that it will one day soon cease to exist.
Q What’s the point of taking pictures, anyway?
Photography is a constant exercise in seeing and choosing, in pointing out, in combining color, shape, form, texture. It keeps me feeling nimble and it makes my heart beat fast.
For me, taking pictures is being out in the world, and being out in the world invites things, allow things, to happen, which is exhilarating. It is a means of gathering stories…the challenge of trying to capture the spirit or personality of a person, place or thing is always a great thrill.
Q If your house was on fire, and all you could save was a Blimp Rizzy bag-full of personal belongings…what would you stuff in that pretty little bag and run with?
I hate this question! Probably these rainbow trout filets from our fridge that need to be cooked. They’d fit.
Q What is your favorite person, place or thing about Columbus, Ohio?
The L-ball water tower atop the roof of the Lazarus Building downtown. It’s a real Jetsons beauty.
THANKS MICHELLE! <3 L
Learn more about Michelle Maguire:
Website / Instagram @pandahandler / Blimp Rizzy / Happy Tours