Michael Flomen's 'Wild Nights' associates nature with camera-less photography

Canadian photographer Michael Flomen is a veteran when it comes to the art of taking pictures and making them come to life in a unique way.

For the last 30 years, Flomen has captured every subject from street photography to objects in nature.

An artist who has come full circle with his craft, Michael decided to take an avant-garde approach to his photography. Creating a print without the use of his camera, the Canadian artist has set a new standard in art and digital photo making.

We picked Michael's brain during his visit to Los Angeles this last week on his complicated process and the inspiration that drove him into this new form of artistic expression.

AXS: How did you get into photography?

Michael Flomen: When I was 16 years old, I would make amateur underwater films and would construct waterproof housings. At some point I discovered photography and was smitten by the process. By the early '70s, I discovered photography books. Taking photos was not as popular then as it now. I was blown away at what you could do with photographing images. Additionally, there was a big debate about photography not being considered an art or taken seriously within the contemporary galleries. I wanted to take on that challenge of making photography look like art.

AXS: At what point did you transition into combining your photography with nature to make 3-D images?

Michael Flomen: After about 20 years of learning and taking a candid "what you see is what you get" style of street photography. Around the late '90s, I felt like I had come full circle with my craft and decided to make a more detailed image. I switched formats, making a larger negative to pull out more details in my prints. While living in Montreal I would notice snow and started to take on the landscape, but didn't want to make pictures everyone else was making. I would photograph the large mounds of melting snow in these large snow dumps near my studio. By springtime, the snow would melt along with all the pollutants. The snow would make these interesting creature-like forms. I would take these types of images from then on and this is what led me to my "Wild Nights" show.

AXS: How did you start working with camera-less photography?

Michael Flomen: While I was in Vermont, I began to notice the fireflies. I decided to experiment to see if a firefly would expose on a piece of 8x10-inch film. I went out and caught a firefly and tried to see if it would make a mark on the film. I went back in the house and developed the film and it indeed made an exposure on the film. So I went back out into the field with my film and attempted to have a real dialogue with the fireflies, which led me into the world of camera-less photography. I take light-sensitive materials such as large format film and paper, putting them directly into the landscape. The fireflies taught me how to light pictures, and from that point I learned how to deal with water as well, discovering the water droplets from the dew point overnight would make the glass and paper wet.

AXS: Explain your creative process with camera-less photography?

Michael Flomen: I work seasonally. In the winter time I'm working with snow. In the spring I'm working with fireflies, ponds, lakes, organic phenomena. I want to get to the essences of what is in nature and try to create a picture that would help the viewer to create some type of dialogue. As a photographer, it is my job to show people things they haven't seen before

AXS: Have you thought about working with other objects in nature, such as plants, moss, etc.?

Michael Flomen: Because I work in seasons and I take on one project at a time, one body of work leads me to another body of work. When I made the firefly pictures I discovered water, and of course water freezes in the wintertime which led me back to snow. Currently, I am working with large bodies of water where there is a lot of muck, silt, bugs and plant life. For me, my large sheets of white paper are like tablecloths. It is like I'm cooking dinner without inviting anyone over. Then, someone calls and asks me if they can come over to eat. By the time dinner starts, I have a full table of people ready to eat. This is the same way I approach my art. I go into the field with my materials with an idea in mind. I create this invitation for something to happen and quartz the event. For example, Jack Pollack didn't create his drip paintings by staying at home all day.

AXS: Who are your influences?

Michael Flomen: My inspirations from the last several decades come from painters. Jackson pollock yves Klein jean Dubuffet, Alberto burri.

AXS: What would you like people to take from your work?

Michael Flomen: I want people to sit down with a cup of coffee and take inspiration from the pieces. It's nice to see people's different perspectives on the prints in the gallery.

Flomen's beautiful exhibit is located at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, California. For more information on the "Wild Nights" show, visit the Boite Noire Gallery or Michaels website.