In a quiet corner of Carlisle, on the border between city and woodland suburb, lives Michael Taylor. Fledgling photographer at just seventeen with a growing Facebook following, already his work is something to see. With high hopes and talent for capturing life, I caught up with this fresh-green star on school days, passion and the enduring power of the photograph.
In the comfort of a darkening evening, I sit at home with my brimming cat and a glass of wine at my side. It is late and, as usual, I have overworked and bedtime is becoming breakfast far too soon. I receive a message from an unknown name. It reads: ‘I’d like to reach out to people to just capture moments… because you never know what is going to happen’.
It is true. This new and bright young thing of a voice, far from my midnight room, seems to share in those very few words the ethic I probably hold most dear: that art is never just for art’s sake.
This is Michael Taylor, a seventeen year-old student living in Cumbria who is making more of his college days than most. Barely out of his teens, Michael manages his own fledgling business as a budding photographer in the streets of Carlisle and its northern neighbours. He tells me he aspires to move into professional work such as directing and producing. Looking through his portfolio, I can see why he believes in himself so much.
I ask him about the very beginning. ‘As a young kid I was always intrigued by my father, who was so interested in his own photography’. Like the paternal hand which reared him, I see that Michael’s photography is homespun and peculiarly private: indeed, he finds a life-force in his northern town with its smokestack sky, urban smog and nature always eternally still.
These photographs each have old, old souls. More than the black-and-white image which Michael seems to favour, there is something almost antique in them. This is an England of fleeting life: the landscape remains but the people do not, their only presence being as absent ciphers forever destructive. In this, the photographs capture Michael’s carpe diem ethos: they show a world without change, momentum or hope.
I am no expert – I think in words, not pictures – but Michael is resolutely linear rather than malleable. His work prioritises rigid line and definition rather than indeterminate shape. It is simple yet powerful, striking in its minimalism and the human absence which commands so much space. I will not make any broad sweeping gesture towards political analogy or ‘the human condition’, simply because I respect that Michael advocates free-thinking and self-interpretation. The photograph, like Michael’s understanding of living, is what you make it.
So he learns and, it seems, rises in the process. Lately Michael’s work has been featured in newspapers and, he tells me with the sparks of hope, his online profile is growing. ‘People contact me to take photos for them, of their pets and their weddings’, he says. Yes, it is small and steady. But it is how many start.
Michael is young, in a business where you cannot plan ahead. But there is art in him yet.