Michael Crouser (https://www.michaelcrouser.com/) was born in 1962 in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1962 and graduated from Saint John’s University (Collegeville, MN) in 1985. He began making photographs in earnest at the age of fourteen when he set up a darkroom in his parents’ basement, started assisting in Minneapolis commercial photo studios after college, and soon thereafter opened his own studio, shooting for a variety of advertising and editorial clients. Crouser’s first book, LOS TOROS, a fifteen-year exploration of the bullfights in Spain, Mexico and South America, took first place in the category or Fine Art Book at the 2008 International Photography Awards, and his follow up book, Dog Run, was named a top ten photo book of the year by PhotoDistrict News and Communication Arts. In 2012 Leica Gallery of New York hosted the exhibition “Michael Crouser: A Mid-Career Retrospective” and in 2014 Crouser received the George Eastman / Power of the Image Award in Beijing, China. Mountain Ranch, Michael’s third book, a ten-year project on the disappearing world of cattle ranching in the mountains of Colorado was published to much acclaim in 2017, and his work can be found in the permanent collections of several museums, including the Museum of Fine Art – Houston, The Minneapolis Institute of Art and the University of Maine Museum of Art. He has taught photography at The International Center of Photography in New York, The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, Minneapolis Photo Center, and online to photographers from around the world. Michael lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Maria, and their son Conrad.
LACP Interviews Michael Crouser
LACP asks Michael Crouser ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.
LACP: What kind of photographer are you?
Michael Crouser: The work I do has been called “Fine Art Documentary.” I like this description, because it suggests an observational approach, but in one’s own voice.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
MC: I began making photographs at the age of 14, which was 44 years ago. .
LACP: Where did you get your training?
MC:I never did get a formal education in photography, but learned by doing (and doing, and doing), and by assisting commercial photographers while in my 20s.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
MC: Very early on, I was captivated by the process of shooting, and also by the process of printing in the darkroom. It all hit me just right, and I’ve been intrigued and enthralled by it ever since.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
MC: While I was working consistently as a freelance commercial photographer I thought quite often about giving up that way of making a living, because it is so often more about finding work than doing work. I just like making photographs, whether it is for a client or for myself. The business of business is another thing.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
MC: You always give up something by freelancing, and that is the steadiness and reliability that other careers can offer. The freedom of freelancing always suited me. I have always loved being my own boss, making my own schedule, etc. But freelancing is a double edged sword. When you’re busy there is money, and you still seem to have time to do other things…personal projects, travel, other pursuits. But when you are not busy, the money doesn’t flow, and panic can set in, and suddenly all that freedom is not quite as attractive, and one might suddenly crave the stability of a more traditional employment.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
MC: Over the years, over the decades, photography has become my best manner of self expression. It is the best aesthetic reflection of myself. It has become necessary for me to make photographs. I love being in the darkroom, I love considering projects, series, etc.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
MC: I am going to teach a class called “Finding Your Voice as a Photographer”, which I first developed for the International Center of Photography in New York, and then taught at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. I’ve also taught it at the Minneapolis Photo Center and online to private students from around the world.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
MC: I have really come to enjoy helping people find what it is that they love about photography, rather than telling people how I think they should make pictures.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
MC: I would say that it is not always simple or easy to make a living in photography, but that, also, there is always room at the top for talented, hard-working people. A “career in photography” can mean a lot of things…it can mean being a commercial, advertising shooter, an editorial photographer, a fine artist, a photography teacher, a photographer of kids’ sports teams or, more than likely, some combination of positions and directions. If it interests you, and you feel strongly about it, I say “Go for it!”