Michael Knapstein: Midwest Memoir
This past September, I had the good fortune to be asked to juror Photo Midwest and attend the Photo Midwest Festival in Madison, Wisconsin. I met so many wonderful people, spent time with old friends, and saw a mother-lode of fantastic work. Included in that bounty were photographs by Michael Knapstein. His project, Midwest Memior, follows the tradition of Group f/64 aesthetics. Taking his inspiration from mid-century artists who captured the midwest landscape with a certain formality, Knapstein brings an elegance and way of seeing that is timeless. The subjects could be from any era; he uses light and architecture to elevate the ghosts of these classic landscapes.
Knapstein has a roster of upcoming exhibitions that will be celebrating his work:
- PhotoMidwest 12th Biennial Exhibition – Three photographs selected by Juror Aline Smithson. Promega Art Showcase. Fitchburg, Wisconsin. September 21 – December 30, 2022.
- Overture Center for the Arts – Part of three-person “Micro Mezzo Macro” exhibition in Gallery II. Madison, Wisconsin. September 20 – November 30, 2022.
- Wisconsin Visual Artist’s “Midwest Seasons” Exhibition – Two photographs selected for juried exhibition. Sauk Prairie River Arts Center Gallery. Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. September 15 – November 18, 2022.
- Wisconsin Photography 2022 – Two photographs selected by juror John Simmons. Racine Art Museum’s Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Art. Racine, Wisconsin. August 31 – November 26, 2022.
- S. Embassy Luxembourg – two photographs selected by the U.S. Department of State for an ongoing exhibition at the U.S. Embassy. Luxembourg City, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
There is a certain magic to the American Midwest.
Honest. Modest. Understated. Sometimes unappreciated. Often overlooked.
I created Midwest Memoir as a way to help others see the Midwest in a whole new light. The Midwest in which I was raised. The Midwest that shaped my experiences and my artistic aesthetic. The Midwest the way I will always remember it, even though it continues to change and gradually disappear around me.
I think of the Midwest as being classic and timeless in nature. Therefore, I approached this project from a time-honored “straight photography” perspective in the spirit of Group f/64 and gave the work a modernist character with a strong formalist dimension. My approach was informed by the work of mid-century modernist photographers such as Adams, Weston, White, Strand, Parks and Evans.
My work was also strongly influenced by the American Regionalism movement and the work of artists who portrayed the American heartland, including Wood, Benton, Curry, Wyeth and Hopper.
If you pause for a moment, perhaps you’ll feel the humid air of an approaching thunderstorm, or catch the smell of fresh laundry as it dries in the summer breeze. That is my Midwest Memoir.
Michael Knapstein (born 1956, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA) is a fine-art photographer who has earned international recognition for his insightful and nuanced visual exploration of the American Midwest. He now lives in Middleton, Wisconsin with his artist wife, Annette.
Michael’s photographs began attracting national attention while still in high school. At the age of 17, his work earned its way into the permanent collection of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. After graduating from the College of Fine Arts and Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Knapstein began a 30+ year career in the world of advertising. He sold his ad agency in 2010 and returned to his first love of photography.
Since this reemergence in the photography world, Knapstein’s work has been well received both domestically and internationally. He was counted among “14 Inspiring American Artists” by Skillshare and Feature Shoot. The Barcelona Foto Biennale (Barcelona, Spain) named him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year. The Moscow International Foto Awards (Moscow, Russia) named him their International Portfolio Photographer of the Year. The Pollux Awards (Kent, England) named him their Grand Prize Winner and International Landscape/Seascape Photographer of the Year. And Photolucida (Portland, Oregon) named him a Critical Mass Finalist four times.
His photographs have been featured in more than 300 solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries in 21 countries on five continents. Knapstein’s images have also been exhibited in dozens of photography festivals around the world, including the Barcelona Foto Festival (Barcelona, Spain), Belfast Photo Festival (Belfast, Ireland), Chania International Photo Festival (Chania, Greece), Head On Photo Festival (Sydney, Australia), Image New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM), International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition (Los Angeles, CA), Les Rencontres d’ Arles International Photography Festival (Arles, France), London Photography Festival (London, England), New York Photo Festival (New York, NY), Palm Springs Photo Festival (Palm Springs, CA), Photo Basel (Basel, Switzerland), Photo LA (Los Angeles, CA), Photo London (London, England), PhotoMidwest Festival (Madison, WI), PhotoVisa International Festival of Photography (Novorossiysk, Russia) and San Francisco Bay Month of Photography (San Francisco, CA).
Knapstein’s photographs have also been recognized with hundreds of awards in some of the world’s most prestigious photography competitions, including The Royal Photographic Society, The Pollux Awards, LensCulture, Tokyo International Foto Awards, Moscow International Foto Awards, Communication Arts, Center for Photographic Art and Prix de la Photographie Paris and Grand Prix de la Decouverte.
Michael’s photographs have been widely published around the world in a variety of print and digital publications, including Adore Noir, Black & White, Black + White Photography, Digital Camera World, Dodho, Feature Shoot, FotoNostrum, Graine de Photographe, LensCulture, L’Oeil de la Photographie, Photographer’s Forum, Rangefinder and Shadow & Light, among others.
His work is also included in dozens of public, private and corporate collections, including the George Eastman International Museum of Photography (Rochester, NY), Dubuque Museum of Art (Dubuque, IA), Racine Art Museum (Racine, WI), PNC Bank (Pittsburg, PA) American Girl (Middleton, WI), Hewlet Packard Enterprise (Chippewa Falls, WI) and The Sierra Club (Madison, WI).
Follow on Instagram: @mknapstein
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