Michael Wayne Plant
“Photography is a language and it is wonderful when you can find ways of using this visual language, to create images that have meaning for you.”
In today's interconnected world, which struggles with competing means of communication, Michael Wayne Plant believes that photographers need to be specialists about their specific subject. With this in mind, his work concentrates on visualizing the social landscape created by contemporary capitalism. He is interested in using visual stories to ask questions of why we are living the way we are at this moment in time. Using a combination of street and social documentary photography, he engages with the social issues that surround us.
About / Biography
Michael Wayne Plant is originally from New Zealand, now based in London. His social documentary photography has evolved though a lifetime engagement with photography. Originally, Michael began as a freelance photographer in Brisbane, Australia, where he started by doing advertising and architectural photography. He worked with numerous ad agencies on clients including Mitre10, which at the time was Australia's biggest hardware retailer.
Between 1991 and 2005, Michael's photography took him to London, Athens, Milan, New York and Paris, with his work featured on the pages of numerous magazines including Technikart, Spoon, Depeche Mode, Madame Figaro, Cosmopolitan, Harpers & Queen, Empire, Esquire, Tatler, Elle, Minx, Australian Vogue, and Io Donna.
He settled in London in 2004, where he met his wonderful wife and made the decision to study photography at Goldsmith College, University of London, where he completed an MA (with Merit) in Photography and Urban Cultures in 2008. Upon graduating he became a sessional tutor in photography at Adult Education College Bexley, where he set up the NCFE accredited photography courses. In 2010, Michael became the Lead Photography Lecturer at Idea Store Learning in Tower Hamlets. Since then, he has worked as both a part-time photography lecturer and as a social documentary photographer. His work has changed as he has, evolving through a number of genres, into what he is most passionate about, which is a return to his original interests in photography: storytelling.
Describe the moment you knew photography changed your life.
Photography has constantly changed in my life. When I was younger, I wanted to go out into the world and photograph it, but I was painfully shy. So I found a way to make photographs with people's permission, which is why I became a fashion photographer for a while. When creating fashion images it is easy, because the whole situation gives you, the photographer permission to make images. But somewhere, I lost the plot and found myself living, actually squatting in Paris, with not much work coming in and feeling a bit lost. One day, I was sitting on a Metro platform waiting for the train when this homeless guy walked up and sat down beside me. We got chatting about life and before I knew it, he was telling me where I could go for food and shelter in Paris. This changed me for some reason, my experience of squatting in Paris. It made me want to connect with others, to be able to tell stories on a much deeper level. So that when I returned to the England, I somehow found an MA course that was run in the Sociology department at Goldsmiths College. That is where I really learnt about social and economic theories that influence our world. These two aspects have actually changed completely my approach to images and the kind of subject that I'm now attracted to and photograph.
Recently, I discovered an interview where Sebastian Salgado was asked for advice that he would give to a young photographer “If you’re young and have the time, go and study. Study anthropology, sociology, economy, geopolitics. Study so that you’re actually able to understand what you’re photographing. What you can photograph and what you should photograph.” I have to say, that I agree wholeheartedly with this, because this is what I did when studying for my photography degree in a Sociology department and it changed how I approach making work, it helped inform me in my thinking and vision and that is a important step in developing as a photographer. The camera is one part of the process and the thinking behind the use of it is important, when you have developed your thinking on this you will know that photography has changed and shaped your life, as it has mine.
If you could sum up your work in one word or one sentence, what would that be?
I’m curious about life, why you have the life that you do, what social and personal forces made it the way that it is and from that understanding, I want to be able visually tell your story so that others can also understand.
What is the most remarkable person, place or thing you have ever photographed and why?
Like all photographers I gets attached to my images, for me they are like my children and for that reason it is hard to say what is the most remarkable person place or thing I have photographed. Because, the subject is not the same thing as the images that I make. The photograph is a referent to the world it is taken in and of, it reflects the photographers preoccupations at the time of its making. So for me, the most remarkable thing is that I am still motivated to make images that reflect the world that I live in. For this reason, the most remarkable person place or thing is the one that I am making images of at the moment that I am making images. Only later do I prioritise the image over the subject matter, this is how you make images that are important to you.
Talk to us about your bucket list... what is on the top of that list of things to photograph?
I want to live long enough to be able to photograph as much of the world that interests me as possible. I also want to share these images with as many people as possible. The world is a wonderful, exciting place full of possibilities and I aim to experience all of it.
If you had not become a photographer, what might you be today?
Probably running a shop of some sort somewhere in Australia and feeling deeply unfulfilled, whereas photography has given meaning to my life and purpose to just about everything that I do.
Give us your thoughts about the Global Imaging Ambassadors program?
I think it's a brilliant idea, as it lets a global company that makes exciting photographic products support a diverse group of photographers, some of whom are photographing some particularly difficult subjects, that do not always get a wide enough support in mainstream media.
What is your favorite Sony camera of the moment?
That’s easy it is the α7RII and because it has the same sensor the RX1RII I think of them essentially as the same camera, as they can be used silently and they let me work in any lighting situation. Because of the combination of these two things they allow me to make images that no other cameras have come close to doing. The lenses are great; the fact that I have a live histogram in the viewfinder at all times, means that I spend more on making images, less time looking at the images (chimping) while I’m working. Seeing a histogram at the moment of exposure and knowing that it is correct has changed my working method. It also helps that the camera is small and light, which means I can carry both the α7RII and RX1RII without getting tired shoulders by the end of the day.
35mm f2.8 Zeiss AF lens
35mm f1.4 Zeiss AF lens
35mm f2 Zeiss Loxia Lens
55mm f1.8 Zeiss AF lens
16-35mm f4 Zeiss AF lens
70-200mm f4 Sony G AF lens
Zoom H4n Recorder
Domke and Think Tank camera bags