Bernd Reinhardt, shared the work of his friend, Michael Jang, with me recently. Bernd is inspired not only by his photographs, but by his philosphies and approach to his image making and I have to agree with that assessment. Michael is not your typical photographer. He grew up in the Gold Rush town of Marysville in California, and had a knack for finding the defining moment early on. Michael received his bachelor’s degree at Cal Arts and his Master’s degree at the San Francisco Art Institute, and for the next 30 years worked as a commercial photographer creating portraits of prominent San Franciscans and working for publications including Rolling Stone, Interview, the New York Times, and Spin Magazine. In his spare time, Michael captured whatever he found interesting –the punk rock movement, denizens of San Francisco life from gang members to the man on the street, his family, and he always made an effort to be where the action was.
Much of Michael’s personal work was not printed until recently. “I’m the Rip van Winkle of photography. Thirty-five years later, I’m coming out and showing this stuff.” And it’s a good thing. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has purchased a number of his prints for their permanent collection.
I’m featuring two YouTube videos about Michael and selections from two bodies of work, At Home with the Jangs, and selected images from his body of work.
Jang ‘s family images are humorous look into the life of an Asian family trying to assimilate into the American mainstream of the ’70s. It wasn’t until he looked at them 35 years later, that he saw these pictures in a larger social and historical context.
“Look at what we’re doing then. We had all the accoutrements – the clothes, the house, the cars, the pets, the Caucasian friends, the Fourth of July party. At the time, I was just bringing in homework for class. I wasn’t thinking too much, I was just responding.” The pictures, he adds, “were really taken in the same spirit that any family takes snapshots. It just happens that I had black-and-white film, a wide-angle lens and I went to art school. There’s nothing else going on, but I do know the history of the medium.”
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