Our Wonderful World is photographer Mike Sullivan’s ode to the beauty, natural and otherwise, that is all around us. Joseph Agius discusses with the photographer what indeed makes his world go round.
Your photographs are all about open spaces and uncontaminated nature. How come you have decided to settle in Malta, so overcrowded and polluted? What constitutes our country’s redeeming factors?
My images are of beautiful and aspirational places or things on the planet that we all take for granted. The ‘wow factor’ can be the vivid colours, or the ‘wish-I-was-there’ feeling. This all adds to providing memories of previous tra-vels and inspiration to open our eyes to our wonderful world.
Everywhere has its beauty and when people complain that Malta “has no trees”, for example, I respectively suggest they look further than the local main road. There are many areas with trees and it’s pleasing that new stock is being planted.
Perhaps the authorities, be it a little late, are realising the future needs this, as we personally have planted, in our own little garden of only about a hundred square metres, palms, trees and shrubs to make our own green space. Others could do likewise. We relocated about three years ago from Spain, where we had a business for over 30 years, and have retired now to Malta, a little gem in the Mediterranean. Very European, strategically placed with access to the world, it lies in a temperate zone that is pleasant most of the year.
The seas are not polluted, the water is clear and warm, and we can speak English without having to live in the UK! What a plus!
The format you use, wide-angle I believe, gives an almost fish-eye view of the particular landscape. Do you use this as you are sometimes at odds what features to include and exclude? Or is to do justice to the natural beauty and you want to bring it all in?
The format I use mainly for my panoramic images is 6cm by 17cms and I use reversal film for the high definition and high saturation results. The other format used over the years has been 6cm by 7cms, my Pentax 67 being my camera of choice. Images are scanned to digital files, and I print up to two metres on either photographic paper or canvas. No images are ever “stitched” but are a true three-to-one format as seen by me, hoping to pass a little of that moment in time to the viewer of my work.
I am pleased and happy to project my privileged moment seeing and recording a wonderful thing into something the viewer can relate with and hopefully get the same feeling of awe and thanks for that presence
In American photographer Ansel Adams’ words: “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer ? and often the supreme disappointment.” Do you get to experience this supreme disappointment?
The only “disappointment” I would say I get is if I am unable to photograph a brilliant shot because of weather conditions and I have to move on to another destination, promising to return another day. That does not, of course, always happen.
Adams also remarked: “There are two people in every photograph: the photographer and the viewer.” Your work is an ode to nature, it is visual poetry. One almost forgets all about the photographer, the creator of the piece. Do you feel some envy as the photographer is upstaged by the theme? Or is that a measure of the work’s success?
I am pleased and happy to project my privileged moment seeing and recording a wonderful thing into something the viewer can relate with and hopefully get the same feeling of awe and thanks for that presence.
I believe that you used to be a photojournalist, and thus, a documenter of human drama and narratives. How did your move to landscape photography happen or did they co-exist, the photojournalism and the landscape photography?
True, I have been in positions of photographing horrific grief as with being there in moments of great joy, but recording “the moment” is still true, whether it’s a fact of news or a special event of nature in this wonderful world of God’s creation.
At Peace with Nature
The usual clichéd question: Which photographers do you consider have been an inspiration for you? Is there a particular photograph in the history of the medium that was your eureka moment and that set you on your path?
No one particular photographer has given me inspiration to achieve great results but I have admired many for the results they have achieved. Making the very best of a situation with light, composition and that very special angle gives the “wow factor”.
It was my mother who first made me want to take pictures. It was her passion that made me want to do better. It was she who eventually saw me achieve national and international acclaim with my images.
Our Wonderful World is hosted by the Malta Postal Museum, Archbishop Street, Valletta, until July 13. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm. It is closed on Sundays and on Tuesday, June 29, being a public holiday. COVID-19 restrictions apply.
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