Photographer Michele B. On Creativity, Cuteness, And David Bowie In Labyrinth

by Elora Williams

Photographer Michele B.’s work can be seen wide and far. With over 80k followers on Instagram, this photographer has been catching our eyes recently. In her photos, she uses mirrors as a subject to take her viewers to another dimension.

When we sat down to talk she had a raging cold but still took the time to talk about her love of horror films, her father, and her history as a pre-med student. We even got into creative thoughts and the label of ‘artist.’

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Did you go to school, like college school?

Yes, I went to UC San Diego, and I entered in the pre-med program. My whole life, I thought I wanted to be a doctor but I also wanted to be a photographer, which was weird for me. The doctor idea came out of a love for science and also some pressure from my dad, of course. When I was in college I just realized that I wanted to do something creative and that even though I love science, I didn’t think that it was the right path for me. So I switched over to communication and I did so much better. I graduated from UCSD and after that I was really worried about having to get into the corporate landscape. I really wanted to focus on being creative, so I took time to do that and here I am.

As far as creativity, would you say it’s innate or learned? Why do some people strive to be artists and others don’t in your opinion?

I don’t know, that’s an interesting question. It definitely plays into the whole nature versus nurture discussion. It’s really a combination of all those things. It’s a hard decision to make, choosing to be creative, because people who choose to make art are not always respected in society and there are no guarantees. You might be really good at something creative but the uncertainty of it as a career path leaves people unsure about whether or not to follow those instincts.

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I’ve noticed recently that some people only find artists respectable if they are very educated in all artistic facets. Would you say to be an artist you need to be aware of all the history and the ways to make it?

I don’t, I really don’t. I’ve tried to take photo classes and hated it. I’ve dropped every single photography class I’ve ever taken except the one that I took in high school.
I feel very lucky, because I’ve always been told that I have an eye for photos. I don’t think you necessarily know that about yourself. It might be something that you really like to do, but what reason do you have to believe that you’re good at something unless people reassure you that you are? I don’t know, there’s endless ways to see yourself.

You can’t really teach certain things, you know, you can’t really teach somebody to have a great ear for writing songs for instance. You can learn how to play music, you can go to a class, but that’s not gonna help you write a good song. I love art but I don’t really consider myself an artist. Like, that is such a huge compliment to me. That’s something that in my opinion you don’t get to call yourself. That’s like saying ‘I’m beautiful, I’m just gorgeous.’

Or saying you’re really good at what you do. Which is good! It’s really good to be full of yourself in the society that we live in. If you come across as being sure of yourself people will believe you.

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Can I ask, do you think human potential is endless, or at some point do you think it runs out?

Oh yeah, I definitely think there is endless potential, but we allow ourselves to be boxed in because we’re afraid to be different. This whole idea that you can’t make art unless you know every single thing about it is a way of controlling each other. If we could judge each other less harshly and allow each other to be different there would be so much more positivity, creativity, and expression in this world.

We live in a society that values logic over emotion. There’s really no room to be soft anymore. But vulnerability and honesty is where good art comes from.

Right, and what you’re saying really strikes a chord with me. Everyone’s always told me I was too sensitive. Having anxiety means that I imagine lots of potential realities and I worry about things that may never happen. That can be a burden, but it can also be a gift. It also gives me the ability to imagine new things and be creative. We force this kind of sensitivity out of each other; it’s often seen as a weakness.

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I think that there is a point to stop and be logical but for me at most points I allow myself to be emotional. Just because I need to live.

Our emotions are very much part of our reality. If you ignore the reality of your emotions, how logical are you really being?

You’ve said you were inspired by Labyrinth?

Yes, absolutely. I love Jim Henson and of course David Bowie. It was a really formative movie for me as a kid. One year, I went to Comic Con and Brian Froud was there. I was so stoked to meet him. He’s the artist who designed all of the mythical characters in Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. I love seeing how Jim Henson brought his ideas to life using puppets. I’ve always liked puppets. I think that’s why I do all this stuff with my cat, almost like he’s a puppet. I just love whimsy, you know? Like cute shit to me is the ultimate, I think it’s art and nobody thinks it’s art really.

Right, because classical art is very serious, and most celebrities are ‘beautiful.’

We respect classical art for all of its skill and beauty, of course, but there is something to be said about cuteness that often gets overlooked in high art. There’s something amazing about the way cute things can make you feel. It’s your inner child recognizing something you thought you forgot. I find it pretty beautiful.

All photos via Instagram/Michele B., @michel_e_b

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