Selfies, dinner, and cat photos. These are pieces of daily life that were a bit special. It’s a frame out of everyday that adds personal value. They resonate and gather the interest of many, as they are liked and shared among a seemingly endless pool of people. At times they are memes, cut out of context, they sustain their own meaning and life. There is no doubt that this is a cruel new environment for artists that carry the burden of copyright. Active on Instagram, one could say that michel_e_b grapples with the very environment that helps drive her works as an artist. The works pursue a very simple and classic idea of using mirrors. However in this particular group of photos that are almost like sketches, anyone can feel the creativity pouring out of them. What is the source of her works and ideas? I wanted to know more about her background and how she thinks.
Could you tell me a bit about your background?
I was born in Santa Clara, Ca and went to Catholic School from K-12th grade. I went to an all girls’ Catholic High school and basically became non-theist after learning too much (lol). After high school I went to junior college for a while and was working all the time. I eventually transferred to UC San Diego into the pre-med program. I grew up wanting to be both an artist and a doctor, which was psychologically conflicting for obvious reasons. I changed my major eventually and began studying marketing and communication which was a really good choice for me. I feel so grateful for my education because it really helped me grow into my creative self. I’m finally allowing myself to focus seriously on creating. It has its own challenges, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done for myself.
When did you start to publish your works on Instagram? What triggered the idea to start to using mirrors in your work? any stories behind it?
I started using Instagram in 2012 just to post casually. I got more serious about my posts as I started taking photography a little more seriously. I’ve always noticed the way cinematographers use mirrors in movies for different visual effects and I also grew up loving telescopes. I started seeing how mirrors basically allow for endless possibilities. I wanted to take mirrors outside and try to create the feeling of portals and parallel worlds. I love that they allow for multiple perspectives in a single frame; I like to remind myself of the endless number of perspectives that exist in the world.
I’ve always noticed the way cinematographers use mirrors in movies for different visual effects and I also grew up loving telescopes. I started seeing how mirrors basically allow for endless possibilities.
Why do you publish your works on Instagram? Which function do you like?
Instagram has been a great way for me to connect with people who I probably would have never met IRL. Growing up in Silicon Valley there is a lot going on, but not a lot of it has to do with art. I like being able to see how people react to my photos with the available functions on Instagram, and people can share my photos with each other easily on IG.
Are your Instagram works the extension of selfies? Or do you create them as art works?
I often don’t think of them as selfies anymore, but they definitely can be considered selfies since they’re photos I take of myself. I don’t call my photos art or specifically try to create art. I feel honored when anyone calls what I do “art.” I have ideas I’d like to share and I try to form those ideas into images. My main goal is to create visuals that are exciting to look at and that speak for themselves.
My cat is my muse. He is his own person. He has his own world just like each of us do. He sees things his own way just like we all do. I’m inspired by trying to see the world in more ways than through my own two eyes.
What is your source of inspiration for your works?
I find inspiration in a lot of places. Sometimes I get lucky and ideas come to me seemingly out of nowhere. I’m inspired by music (Prince) and movies (lots) of course. I’m inspired by color and nature. I’m inspired by the body and the universe. I see our bodies as tiny little universes of their own. My cat is my muse. He is his own person. He has his own world just like each of us do. He sees things his own way just like we all do. I’m inspired by trying to see the world in more ways than through my own two eyes.
How does SNS and online environment affect your works?
There are definitely positive and negative aspects to sharing your work online. As I said in my last answer, sharing my work via SNS allows me to reach more people than a simple website would but it also allows for more people to take my photos and post them without credit. One of my photos of my cat is being used as a meme right now, which would be awesome if people ever credited images in their memes. I think Instagram and Tumblr give people the idea that images are sort of just free to share without any citation or credit, which is really bad for people who work hard to create. It’s weird because as much as reblogging photos is a compliment, it doesn’t help the creator at all if no one knows who made it.
When do you usually make your works? It seems that your works are frequently updated. Do you set yourself a schedule?
I’m happy to hear that I post a lot because some of my friends tell me I need to post more often! I try to take a photo every day but that isn’t always possible. It’s tough because I have the strongest desire to create at night, which is really counter intuitive for a photographer. I’m currently trying to figure out a better lighting system so I can take more photos at any time of day.
In the future, are you planning to publish your works outside of Instagram? and to make works without mirrors?
Definitely. I’m currently working on making prints and a website. I think there are many ways to use mirrors that I haven’t even thought of yet, so I would like to experiment to find out what those are. I definitely want to take photos without mirrors now as well as in the future, but I think i’ll always use them in one way or another.