Michael Northrup

Full Frontal Flash are proud to welcome the Strobissimo himself, Michael Northrup, to the collective!

Welcome Michael, we’re really happy to have you in Full Frontal.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in photography during the 70s and fell in love with the flash once I found my legs in the medium. I was heavily influenced by the photo histories and contemporaries I was exposed to while at Ohio University. By the late 70s, as I worked on my MFA at the Chicago Art Institute, I was focused almost entirely on the flash light. Over the years that light was like a stone I just kept rubbing and rubbing. I don’t like repeating myself so I kept changing how I used the light.

Another part to the technique is my love of irony. And that underlies a majority of my images, whether subtle or obvious. I must have been especially influenced by my mother who would laugh at news stories like, “Santa looses fingers while stepping off helicopter to wave at kids”. During the 50’s my older brother told me all the science fiction and horror movies we were seeing were documentaries. And my dad, being a doctor, surgeon, and coroner, would bring humor to the dinner table on things like bowel obstructions and suicides. My whole family was great at extracting humor out of tragedy and that has given me a way of seeing life. For me creating images is all about my daily life, those meaningful pictures I’m able to extract from it, and the personal photographic vision I bring to those visual narratives .

When did you start with photography and more importantly when and why did you start to use a flash?
I started around 1969 when I entered the BFA photo program at Ohio University. It was a huge department and had a good national reputation. Photo history was required for 3 quarter terms and I got to see a lot of the histories and contemporaries. Weegee, Diane Arbus, Marc Cohen, Lee Friedlander, Lewis Hine, Edgerton, and lots more…. were the first works that got me looking at the flash.

Could you describe your photographic style?
I’m a mix of the “snapshot aesthetic” and formalism. My work might look casual on the outside but on the inside there is a structure and composition to the image that is turning me on.

Show us some of your flash photos and tell us something about them

Eye Brush-1978 It’s a straight on camera flash and was reminded a little of Marcel Duchamp. This image had a surreal feeling to me. Also I was not interested in portraiture. People were more objects to me…. ergo the absence of eyes.

Crucifix-1978 I’m exploring the flash’s ability to freeze things in mid air. I did a series called “Levitations” playing with throwing things in the air and see what happens.

Helene Underwater-1983 This represents my leaving black and white and going full color, taking with me my sensibilities.

Can We Have the Head-1980 Showing my continued play with the flash properties into the color work.

Gert Over the Blue Ridge-1980 Showing my beginning to play with colored jells and daylight.

Meriam’s Mirror-1983 This is an example of my playing with light painting that I coined “Strobacolor”. It shows going from a singular exposure of a single color to using multiple exposures with the colored jells.

Mad Donna-1995 This image was kind of a peak of development and I was done. It is using an on camera masking device and light painting. It’s all done on one negative in camera, with people and objects supported in front of the camera.

Once again, welcome to the Full Frontal Family, we’re excited to have you with us.

Links to Michael Northrups Portfolio and Social Media