Michael Zuhorski is a photographer living in Marquette, Michigan. His work investigates isolated landscapes and environments found in nature. He shares recent work from an ongoing project An Apparition.
Where did you grow up and how did your environment influence you?
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. I think the overwhelming regularity of the environment greatly influenced the way I experience and think about my surroundings. Roni Horn said,
“growing up in a suburb... you know that you’re nowhere.” That seems uncannily accurate to me.
What originally got you interested in photography? What keeps you interested?
As a kid I developed a serious photographic practice. It gave me a way to communicate about my experience of being in the world like nothing else could. I’m still interested for essentially the same reason, although with time it has become apparent that photography serves to make my experience of the world meaningful, something I struggle with otherwise.
You are currently living in one of my favorites place in the world — Marquette, Michigan. Why did you move to Marquette? How does living in such an isolated area affect you and your work?
After I graduated with my BFA I moved to Marquette for romantic reasons. I was accompanying someone I love(d) and pursuing the idea of immersing myself in the landscape and its isolation for the sake of my work. I’m prone to isolation, so being here and dedicating myself to photographing the environment has come naturally to me.
Where do you plan to move next?
I’m currently in the process of applying to graduate school. There are a few schools I’m getting my hopes up for, but if I named them it might spoil the fun.
Your photographs tend to reflect the environments you discover, most often in nature. In most images, people are not present, but the presence of people exist. What do you hope people reflect on when viewing these images?
Hopefully viewers reflect on how ubiquitous humanity’s presence is, and that we are inseparable from our given surroundings. People tend to think of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as pristine, where forests are superabundant and ecosystems are unshakably stable. As prevalent as the natural environment is here, I worry that such attitudes breed complacency towards how delicate the relationship really is.
What is your relationship to environments and nature outside of photography? Do you tend to travel and/or explore a lot on your own?
Being in and around natural environments is one of the most life-affirming things I know.
Growing up surrounded by suburban sprawl, the designed purpose of that environment – the way developed land steers you physically and psychologically – was (and is) difficult for me to escape from. In light of that, I think my idea of nature has grown to signify openness and possibility.
I usually travel and photograph on my own. In doing so I can put myself in situations which test my patience or comfort without having to take anyone else’s into account.
What themes does your work tend to reflect? What themes interest you that you would like to explore in the future?
It seems to me that others are often better at discerning the themes of my work than I am. Something I do aim to communicate with my work is that
a place, a landscape, is never passively observed, rather, it is actively participated in and constantly redefined by the participant.
In terms of the future, I’d like to further develop the photographic language I’m currently working in. Otherwise I’d like make work addressing uncertainty.
Are there any projects you’re currently working on? If so, what are they about?
I’m currently at work on a project tentatively titled “An Apparition”.
It’s centered around describing the strange, unsettling beauty of encountering things untethered from familiar meaning, and how delicate such meaning is. The project-in-progress is equally about my experience of the delicate region where I live.
What are some influences that have inspired you outside of photography?
Helen Frankenthaler’s work has had quite an impact on me. As have Roni Horn and Steve Reich respectively – the way they manipulate attention through subtle shifts in form speaks beautifully to something fundamental about experience. I also love the attention to change and detail in Henry David Thoreau’s writing.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I’m terrified of deep water.
What are some of your goals this year, both in personal and creative realms?
I’d like to get out and socialize more, eat less Taco Bell (but who am I kidding). Keeping a journal is a recent goal of mine.
If you were to name one thing you are currently obsessed with what would it be?
The lilac bush next to my house.
One book, one film and one song recommendation.
Zero K by Don Delillo, Fargo, and Holding by Grouper.
Favorite Instagram account of the moment?
@ssaskoley has something really great going.