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'Photographers Forum' Magazine.
Nov. '93 issue.

Michael Seewald-
Finding His Niche in the Fine Arts World
By Manuel J. Rodriguez
Special to Photographer's Forum

Note: Updated facts (thru 12.'07) and comments
by Seewald are indicated by the [info in brackets].
It was raining with the sky a slate gray. In the Italian port city of Genoa, Michael Seewald had boarded a bus heading out of town. Looking out the window he spied it: three pastel walled buildings perched on a cliff hovering over the Mediterranean Sea. He realized the photographic possibility. Quickly, he exited the bus.

Setting up his Mamiya RB67, Seewald determined his basic composition. Then he started making adjustments. Move a bit to the left. Move a bit to the right. Come closer. Pull back. Yet after about 30 minutes of fine-tuning, Seewald realized the image still was missing something. The far left appeared empty. A compositional element was needed to balance out the buildings at right.

Seewald, a spiritual man who believes in the power of prayer, petitioned God to assist him out of this quandary. 'I asked God to supply me with something ... a bird flying into the frame, or a sailboat cruising by,' Seewald recalls. Shortly after, along the horizon, an oil tanker emerged from behind the buildings. His request answered, Seewald made the picture, with the one-second exposure blurring the wave movement at cliff's edge.

Since 1986, San Diego-based Seewald, [55], has traveled the world creating his fine arts images. He sells these from [his gallery in Encinitas]. And while many photographers, including professionals, see fine arts photography as something one does for the love of it - with little thought given to selling the images - Seewald actually makes a living from his fine arts work.

His secret? Before he leaves on a photographic expedition, Seewald pre-sells the photographs he will create to a group of expedition "sponsors." Of course, this means he's built a reputation for producing photographs that his sponsors will like. The success of this approach speaks for itself each year Seewald's audience keeps expanding. From a handful of sponsors just a few years ago, Seewald's patrons today number more than [500].

Seewald immerses himself completely in his work. When he photographs, the world comes at him as a barrage of images.

"I heard someone say once that you can see a million images per day,' he explains. 'That's what I feel is happening to me. I have this motion picture camera running in my head. I'm constantly looking at and editing picture possibilities. People sometimes ask what I'm looking for. I answer that it could be something as common as a toilet. The subject is not important... line, light and form are important. I'm looking for something that's artistically interesting as a union of a few different things. I'm not looking for any one thing.

'When I'm photographing I'm constantly on the prowl, from the start of the day to the end. If a particular place seems to be working as far as producing images ... and if it feels good...l might stay an extra day or two.

"I don't work from a prearranged plan when I go on a trip. I play it all by ear. I don't carry a map. I don't research the place. I don't want to be influenced by what someone else has done. I like to be as creative and fluid as possible when I work.'

Seewald walks onto a street in Milan, Italy, turns left, and through a darkened portal views a dynamic scene. People are rushing about; streetcars and busses are making their way through the portal. Soft light and the portal's framing effect produce a sense of flattened perspective. Muted splashes of green and red highlight the otherwise monochromatic composition.

Over three hours Seewald takes picture after picture of the scene, employing a two-second exposure so that pedestrian and vehicle movement blurs. But as with the Genoa seascape, Seewald senses something missing in the photograph. Finally, after the thirtieth exposure, the composition locks into place. Two men in silhouette start conversing at the image's lower left. Seewald makes the picture, with an iron-red streetcar, its motion ghosted, plowing into the center of the frame.
Seewald's photographs frequently convey a painterly feeling. That's no surprise. At around five years old he already dabbled with paint-by-number kits. Then, he started creating original paintings (even today, Seewald periodically picks up a brush).
At 12, Seewald received his first camera, a box Brownie. Almost immediately be became the family photographer, taking snapshots of vacations and holidays. He remembers the early thrill of photographing.

"There was an excitement about the imagery the camera could produce. It could capture the moment.'

After high school, Seewald enrolled at Southwestern College near San Diego. Utilizing the school's photo labs, he taught himself darkroom procedure, including color printing. He enjoyed experimenting in the darkroom, and found the work came naturally.

Upon receiving an associate degree from Southwestern College in the mid-1970s, Seewald moved to San Diego State University, enrolling in the university's photojournalism program. For two years he served as a staff photographer for the Daily Aztec, S.D.S.U.'s newspaper. He enjoyed the news work; still, deep down, Seewald knew photojournalism wasn't what he wanted to do over the long haul. For one thing, something he heard on his first day at S.D.S.U. startled him. A journalism professor told Seewald and his fellow students that journalists, because of deadline pressure and other stress, suffer a high heart attack rate. "It wasn't too enticing to hear that," Seewald recalls.

Article continuted on website with photos: ...

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