Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Collaboration With Sterling Witt

February 19, 2016

How It Began

Sterling Witt and I first met at an opening reception for a show of his artwork at a now defunct gallery in Kansas City, KS about 6 years ago.  I arrived toward the end of the night.  Most of the patrons were long gone and in the most casual of settings he and the few people left were sitting around, sipping wine and engaged in conversation interspersed with Sterling’s singing original songs while accompanying himself on an old acoustic guitar that appeared to have been well used.

Following a brief introduction by the gallery curator we became friends almost instantly.  For several months we corresponded on Facebook until our next in person meeting when he invited me to his birthday party at his farm near Freeman, MO.


Sterling Witt with Dave Michael, author, at a gallery opening for a show of his “Wild Women” Paintings

While there I photographed the event, his home which is an extension of his art, the guests and the activities which included a pot luck dinner, a musical performance and a giant bonfire.   I also made some video recordings, a medium that was new to me at the time.

In days following the party I worked diligently editing both the images and video into two short productions which I posted on Vimeo and shared with my new friend.  Being a total novice at video production I believe my editing was more than a bit primitive, but Sterling was impressed enough to ask if I were interested in collaborating with him.

I had reservations about my ability to do a quality job.  Sterling seemed to have more confidence in my abilities than I had, but he persuaded me to try, and we began what has become a series of video slide shows using the imagery of his visual art accompanied by his original musical compositions as soundtracks.

Our collaboration began with a face to face meeting where we outlined what we intended to do.  From that point much of our work together was conducted online, by text messages and on the phone.  Sterling sent image and audio files and I edited.

In the early stages working together was just a little rocky as we each had our own ideas about how to proceed.   Eventually what might have been described early on more as a competition than collaboration came together and our first jointly produced video, “Wild Women,” became a reality.

Images and text Copyright 2016 Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

Visit Sterling’s website at



August 29, 2015

Throughout history the human figure has been a popular, perhaps the most popular, subject for artists.  As a photo artist, I too have a fascination with human beings, both women and men.  They are my most interesting and favorite subjects.

Many artists who portray people choose to depict only models that fulfill their, or perhaps society’s, perception of perfect specimens of humanity.  This is apparent in art ranging from Greek statues to Playboy nudes and certainly promoted in popular media.  I have no problem with those who choose that approach, but that is not my style, at least not all the time.

More often I will choose subjects (or they choose me) who I find interesting because they don’t fit the mold current beauty standards attempt to push us all into.  My preference is to show the world there is much beauty to be found in subjects other than the oft depicted 20 something woman who slips easily into a size 2 or smaller.

The above link is to a recently completed video I made from images of a photo shoot I did with Rachel, a friend and model I have collaborated with several times over the past 2 years.  She has the confidence to be proud of her body that bore and nurtured a child.  She is neither in her 20s nor a size 2, but she is beautiful.

I hope you will agree.

Images and text Copyright 2015 Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.


June 15, 2015

In reviving this blog, “Musings From The Aardvark Dude,” one of my thoughts is that it is unnecessary for all the posts to include a lengthy essay. 

Although I am a trained writer my greater claim to fame, not that I have a great claim to fame, is as a photographer, though I prefer to refer to myself as a visual artist.  I have been making images with cameras most of my life.  My sister, Barbara presented my first camera to me as a birthday gift the day I turned 5 nearly 62 years ago.

Photography has been both a vocation and an avocation for me.  I have created images for pay as a news photographer, a portrait and wedding photographer and as an artist exhibiting in galleries.  I always have and continue to create images purely for my own enjoyment and share them with others who seem to find them interesting and/or amusing.

In the future you can expect to see images here with little or no explanation.  They will be posted just because I like them and want to share.

With that said, I present this image of Rachel ~ performance artist, poet, model, hairdresser, mother and friend, not necessarily listed in order of importance.

Rachel IMG_7897 11/06/2014

Rachel Parker at the Workhouse Castle, Kansas City, MO 11/06/2014

Images and text Copyright 2015 Dave Michael.
No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

The Day I Shot Richard Nixon

April 2, 2011

Or My Most Historic Photograph 
Forty-two years ago on April 2, 1969 at the tender age of 20 I made what may be the most historic image of my career as a photographer. I photographed President Richard Milhous Nixon on the streets of Abilene, Kansas following the funeral and interment of President Dwight David Eisenhower.

President Richard Milhous Nixon signs an autograph following the funeral and interment of President Dwight David Eisenhower in Abilene, KS.

 At the time I was a journalism major at Baker University in Baldwin City, KS. Armed with only a 35mm Pentax camera, one lens and a few rolls of Tri-X film I set out for Abilene early in the morning on the not really knowing what to expect, but hoping to capture some images of the activity in this little town of about 8,000 residents which was about to be swarmed by a crowd of nearly 100,000.

When I arrived I found the U. S. Army had taken control of the town and had set up a command center in the local National Guard armory. Somehow I found my way to a desk where an officer was handing out passes to members of the press. With no documentation to back up my assertions that I was there to represent the Baker Wildcat, my university’s student newspaper, and the Baldwin Ledger, my hometown daily, I managed to persuade him to give me one of the coveted passes. I was informed the Army would deliver me along with other members of the media to the appropriate press stands when the time arrived.

As the casket bearing President Eisenhower arrived at the chapel which is his final resting place I had a prime vantage point where I could clearly view and photograph the activities of various family members and dignitaries arriving and departing. The service itself was private, was in the chapel and the press was not allowed in.

Following the departure those who had been in the chapel for the ceremony I started back, along with other members of the press, to the bus that had brought me . I was ready to get back to my car and home to begin processing film, or so I thought. Before making it back to the bus I saw the presidential limousine pause in the midst of the throngs that lined nearby streets. President Nixon exited the car and walked into the crowd where he was shaking hands and signing autographs. Naturally the mass of humanity, including most of the press, surged toward him to get a closer look.

I wanted to get close to him too, but I quickly saw how futile it would be to run toward him. I turned and saw, aside from a few men in trench coats and dark glasses, there was no one near the president’s car. I made my way to it and firmly planted myself close to the door I had seen President Nixon come out of. My strategy worked.

As the president started back toward the limo, the crowd followed. When he was close they rushed in near where I was, and I was shoved until my butt was against the rear fender. I began taking pictures, one after another as quickly as I could with a manual camera. As President Nixon was about to enter the now open door next to where I was standing, I had a clear view and was close enough I could have touched him. I continued to shoot film even as I felt the hands of two Secret Service agents slide under my armpits and begin dragging me away.

As the president disappeared inside his car the agents released me in the street, and I headed back to the bus that was waiting to return me to the armory. Once there I made my way back to my, car and began the journey home where I worked into the night processing and printing the images I had captured that day, including the close up of President Nixon posted above.

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Images and text Copyright 2011 Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

Jim And My First Medium Format Camera

August 28, 2010
When my interest in photography grew into a passion during the middle of my college career one of the things that fanned the flames and kept them burning was my discovery that professional photographers are generally very willing to share their knowledge with aspiring photographers and newcomers. Whenever I was out and about, if I spotted a studio, I would stop to check out the images on display in the window, and if the business were open I would often go inside to see what was displayed there.

Me with my first professional quality medium format camera, a Mamiya Press 23 with a 6cm X 7cm roll film back that worked with either 120 or 220 film. The photograph was made by my cousin Gary Burge at my first portrait and wedding studio, Dave’s Studio, at 731 New Hampshire, Lawrence, KS shortly after opening in 1973.

In most cases I was greeted warmly by studio staff members and often if the owner, who was usually also the photographer, were available he would take an interest in the college student / beginning photographer and spend some time talking to me about his studio operation and sometimes share technical information or tips on running a business. This contact with working professionals was no small part of my education for what was to become a career.

One such person was a man I now remember only as Jim. Jim ran a small camera store and camera repair service in what is known as the Argentine District in Kansas City, KS. I met him while shopping for a medium format camera. For those of you who are unfamiliar with photographic terms that would be a camera that produces a negative larger than 35 mm and smaller than a 4” X 5”.

As this was during a time long before the advent of the internet I had studied Magazines like Popular Photography and Modern Photography for information on various cameras that might suit my need. I had photographed one wedding and wanted to photograph more. The first was on 35mm film, but the accepted practice in the business was to use cameras that produced a larger negative which in turn produced higher quality prints. Before meeting Jim I had settled on purchasing a Yashicamat which was a camera I believed would suit my needs and was affordable on my limited budget.

While searching for the best price o the camera of my choice I stopped by Jim’s store, explained what I was looking for and why. It took little time for him to persuade me had set my sights too low as he showed me the camera I should be getting, a Mamiya Press 23 with a roll film back, and he also persuaded me I needed a Honeywell Strobonar electronic flash to go with it. The dilemma this presented was the outfit was a little over $400 which was more than 4 times what I had budgeted for my new equipment purchase. That was no small amount of money for a college student working a part time campus job and occasionally selling some photographs, but I left Jim convinced he was right and determined to find a way to consummate the purchase.

My next stop was the Baldwin State Bank where I somehow managed to convince the loan officer I was credit worthy and walked away with a 12 month note and sufficient cash in my account to purchase the desired camera. The next day I was able to pay a return visit to Jim and purchase the desired new piece of equipment.

As Jim ran through some of the finer points of using my new camera he made an offer that looking back was probably worth far more than the money I had borrowed to buy equipment, he offered to take me along as he photographed a wedding and show me the methods of an experienced professional first hand. As Marlon Brando once said, it was “an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

On the appointed day I met Jim at his store before the wedding. He showed me how he prepared, checking equipment to make certain everything was working, verifying his bag contained sufficient film and spare batteries, and he explained what we would be doing when we arrived at the church. We then got in his car and headed down the street to a small Catholic church where I spent next few hours trailing behind my new-found friend and seeing first hand how a working professional photographs a wedding.

As I headed back home after this amazing experience I was thankful for what Jim had shared. Looking back I now realize how much more this kind man had given me than just a good deal on some quality equipment.

In the days that followed, using my new camera and flash, I earned the money required to pay off my 12 month loan in just a little over 30 days. The true value I received in that small camera store in Kansas City, KS was not the flashy new equipment that has now long been traded on newer fancier picture making machines. The true value was the knowledge that an experienced professional willingly gave at no extra cost to a wet behind the ears beginner who wanted to join his profession.

To all who helped me along the way I say thank you.

To Jim, wherever you are, I offer a hearty and very special Thank You!

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Your feedback is appreciated.  Click here to leave a comment.

Text and image copyright 2010 Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

A Gift That Keeps On Giving

August 25, 2010

Fifty-seven years ago who could ever have predicted the influence a birthday gift would have on my life. July 30, 1953, the day I turned 5, I received a present that continues to influence my life today at age 62.

At age 5 with my Kodak Baby Brownie in hand I carefully line up a picture in the viewfinder.
At the suggestion of my sister Barbara my parents gave me a camera, a Kodak Baby Brownie. I grew up in a family of snap shooters, and as a result I assumed everyone took pictures. I quickly joined the family pastime and began making images of my own.

In the fall after receiving my camera I began kindergarten at McAlister Elementary School in Lawrence, KS. Although I’m sure I made use of my new possession during the summer one of the first pictures I remember making was of my entire class lined up on the steps of the school.

Throughout grade school I continued to take pictures with my prized Brownie. My parents were both teachers, and we often took long summer vacations, camping along the sway as we drove to visit my grandparents and other relatives in Washington state. Naturally my camera went along to record visits to places like the Grad Canyon, Yosemite, the Puget Sound, Yellowstone, and the Rocky Mountains.

During those years I wouldn’t say photography was a passion, but it was a continuing interest. Although by the time I entered junior high I had begun experimenting with other cameras and had begun to learn how to use my father’s 35mm I kept the precious camera that started it all. During high school a friend and I assembled a primitive dark room in his parents basement bathroom, and together we began learning how to process film and make our own prints. My knowledge of and interest in photography continued to grow at a slow steady pace.

My First Camera And My Most Recent Camera – On the left is a Kodak Baby Browie that I received as a gift for my 5th birthday, July 30, 1953.  On the right is my most recent camera a Canon Digital Rebel that I purchased 51 years later in 2004. 

My sophomore year in college I decided to major in journalism and enrolled in a basic photojournalism course. At that point the glowing spark that had bee ignited by the gift I received as a small child took flame, and I have had a passion for photography ever since. During college I not only became the photo editor of the school paper, but also freelanced for area news papers and occasionally even got pictures on the Associated Press wire. For extra cash while attending school I took over a party photography business from graduating upper classmen, and before graduating myself began photographing weddings. I had clearly found my calling.

For the next 35 years, though I occasionally held jobs in other fields, I continued to work as a photographer either part time or full time. My first job out of school was as a writer and photographer for a daily newspaper. I later owned and operated two portrait and wedding studios. By the time I closed the last studio I had begun photographing weddings for the children of my earliest wedding clients.

Today at age 62 I am retired from the daily grind of operating a studio and now continue to enjoy making images with a camera, although now I no longer feel the need to satisfy the whims of customers and create photographic art following my own interests and desires.

My subject matter these days is much more diverse. I have moved from the simple Kodak box camera to a sophisticated Canon digital single lens reflex. I have traded the hours spent with my fingers soaking in wet chemicals for hours spent processing images with Photoshop on a computer. My images no longer always look like photographs when I complete them, and I don’t sit around in a studio waiting for people to show up. I post many images on line and swap comments and ideas with photographers and artists all over the world. I now occasionally display my work in art galleries.

Fifty-seven years later my life revolves around a simple gift I received the day I turned 5. I think that clearly qualifies as a gift that has given and kept giving.

Thanks Mom and Dad and Barbara Jean.

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Click here to see more of my images on Flickr.

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Your feedback is appreciated.  Click here to leave a comment.

Text and image copyright 2010 Dave Michael.  No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

The Hotest Photo Sharing Site On The Web

May 18, 2010

If you love making pictures and sharing them with the world, you may already be familiar with the photo sharing site Flickr. If you don’t know about it, you should. 

 According to Wikipedia as of October of 2009 Flickr, which since 2005 has been owned by Yahoo, was host to over 4 billion images. The range of images available to viewers around the globe with internet access is beyond imagination as is the variety of people posting.

There are everyday individuals who post personal snapshots simply as a means to share them with family and friends. Others are skilled amateurs and professionals who use Flickr as a means to show off their work and receive feedback from others as a means to hone their skills. Some activists post pictures to promote their social causes, and businesses and non-profits alike use the site to document and advertise their activities. Subject matter is as diverse as the people posting.

While most images posted are photographs, artists working in other media who either scan or photograph their work can also be found. In addition to still images members may post short videos up to 90 seconds long.

In spite of the overwhelming size of the archives on Flickr, it is relatively easy for viewers to navigate the site and find posts suited to their particular interests. Each member has an individual “photostream”. Within each site images may be categorized into sets and collections and may given relevant tags. Members may also establish groups dedicated to specific interests. Then depending upon the selection of various options other members may post their images to these groups.

Individual images, sets and groups may be either public or private. Thus it is possible to have a group in which anyone may post and view with little or no moderation, while it is also possible for group managers to control who can post and view the group content. By doing so group members may be limited to only those with a specific interest. This also makes it possible to set up groups viewable only by family members where people can share events like weddings and birthday parties without making the images available to the whole world.

A search engine built into the site makes it easy to find images and groups according to who posted them, subject matter, etc. Members may designate each other as contacts, friends and/or family which further controls access to images. It also makes it possible to go to a contact page to see what has been posted recently by individuals one is connected to without the necessity of going to each individual photo stream.

Subject matter at Flickr ranges all the way from the most innocent pictures of flowers, kittens and babies to fine art nudes and even pornography. To avoid the possibility of people stumbling upon images they may find offensive, images must be classified as safe, moderate or restricted when they are posted. Non-members may only view safe images. When a person signs on as a new member his/her account defaults to accessing only safe images. Members have the option of then changing their safety settings to allow viewing of moderate or restricted images. Members who post images without properly flagging them are dealt with swiftly by Flickr management who either restrict all the content in offending photostreams or deleting the entire stream.

Each person or entity posting must have a Flickr account. A free account is simple to set up and is active immediately upon providing the required information online. Free accounts allow members to post up to 100 mb per month and a total of 200 images. For $25 a year a member can have a Pro account which allows unlimited uploads and storage.  Each account has a profile page where members can post as much or as little information about themselves as they wish depending upon what they want to share with the public.


For photographers and other artists who want to share their work with the world and keep track of what their peers are up to there is nothing else like Flickr. I highly recommend you check it out today at . 

A big Thank You to my Flickr friends who graciously permitted the use of their images to illustrate this article.
Illustrations in order of appearance in the article:
Flickr Home Page by
Flickr Photostream Page by Aardvark_Foto
12:00 a.m.  01/01/2010 by Aardvark_Foto
Little Pink Houses 4 U & Me by Thinkoutsidethebox
Last Patrol by Eks4003 
Here, There And Everywhere by Aya Rosen
Throat Chakra by Kat110168
Grimm’s Woods by Hippiechic
La Star by Djuliet
Moptown by Gingerpig2000
Comes a Time by Hippiechic
Painting And Sculpture by Djuliet
Worker by Aardvark_Foto
Fresco Painting by Zachary.Michael
Visit My Flickr Photostream
Text Copyright 2010 Dave Michael
Images Copyright Individual Artists
No text or images may be reproduced without written permission of the copyright holder.