Michael McCraw chose Daniel Shea to be interviewed. I was already familiar with Daniel’s work, and I actually asked a couple of questions in an interview with Daniel a couple of years ago on a now defunct blog I worked on with Nathan Ward. I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview him again, and see how Daniel’s body of work has developed and changed since two years ago.

Daniel Shea is an artist based in New York City and Chicago working primarily  in the mediums of photography, installation and sculpture. He recently received an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His first monograph, Blisner, Ill., was released in conjunction with a long-term residency at Columbia College Chicago and a book release at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. He has exhibited recently at The DePaul Art Museum, The Museo de Arte Acarigua-Araure, Venezuela, MDW Art Fair, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Asia Society in Beijing, and LVL3 Gallery, among others. He makes work, teaches as an adjunct faculty at MICA, and does commissions for editorial clients.

"I like Daniel’s work for a few reasons. It’s consistently good. Very good. And he’s not the type of person to just stick to what he is comfortable with. He’s always experimenting. He could have made work similar to his coal series forever and been a very successful photographer, but he’s always pushing himself. I think his work now shares some aspects to what he was doing, but it’s expanded and more interesting." - Michael McCraw

Bite & Burrow: Could you give a brief biography including age, location and a random fact or thought about your life?

Daniel Shea: Daniel Shea, 28, NYC/Chicago. But how does it seem?

BB: When and how did you decide that you wanted to pursue an education and a career in photography?

DS: I’ve always wanted to be an “artist,” so the past 10 years has been a combination of doing the prescribed route (a BFA and then an MFA) and figuring out my own way to have a sustaining career as an artist. The “how” has always the tricky part. I try to make life decisions that will put me in a position to spend the most amount of time and available resources on projects I want to work on.

BB: Overall how was your experience with higher education in art? Did you ever have any frustrations, or did you find it mostly beneficial?

DS: I had an amazing MFA experience. I decided to go back to school because I was ready to have the time and space to dedicate to an art practice and because I wanted to work with the professors and UIC. There are some frustrations - even though my program is cheap relative to other schools, I still had to spend a lot of money. And it becomes tiresome sometimes to be put through the grad school wringer (a relentless attack on every decision you make), but ultimately it was totally worth it and I really only have positive things to say about it.

BB: Sometimes you post what you are listening to while working on your studio blog. What have you been listening to lately?

DS: Lately it’s been the Sacred Bones Records catalog, Inquisition, Incantation and Morrissey. And T. Swift.

BB: You released a book, Blisner, Ill., a couple of months ago. It was designed by Morgan Brill, had text by John Friel and the binding was done by April Wilkins. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted these people to be involved with the making of the book? How was working with this group of people?

DS: I knew the book would be a collaboration with the people involved in various steps. The book is deliberately an object of intense labor, because in a sense, it contains a history of that kind of physical work and production. I chose to work with people that are friends and whose ideas and practices I respect. I also wanted to work with people who would bring new ideas and interpretations to the table.

BB: You photograph strangers often for your personal and editorial work. Do you have any wild stories that you could share about trying to photograph someone?

DS: When I first started photographing strangers I was incredibly anxious about it. One of the first strangers I met in West Virginia when I was working on an early coal project was a man named Pickles. He took me into his home and showed me his knives that had been used to kill people, according to him. His brother owned a bag of illegal assault weapons. On my first back-mountain exploring trip with Pickles in his truck he drove me onto an active mine site, minutes after almost flipping the car to drive up a steep mountainside. We quickly drove off the mine site and heard the ridge being blasted only 2 minutes later. I am always looking for people like that to hang out with.

Daniel’s Website
Daniel’s Blog

Bite & Burrow’s next interview will be with an artist of Daniel’s choice. Like the Bite & Burrow Facebook page to see updates and follow to see future interviews.

To kick off this interview series I decided to talk to Michael McCraw about his photographs. Choosing the first person to interview was a tough decision because it is the only interview in this whole series that I will get to pick who I am talking to. I decided to interview Michael because he is someone I have had small talk with on occasion, but I have never talked to him about his work. His photographs have always been so striking to me because of the feeling of intimacy that seems to be brimming from them. It felt like the perfect choice.

Bite & Burrow: Could you give a brief biography including age, location and a random fact or thought about your life?:

Michael McCraw: Michael Christopher McCraw, 28, born outside of Pensacola, FL, lived in Alabama, Tennessee, and currently in Atlanta, GA. I once attended an engagement party with David Carradine and Robert Hays from the movie Airplane.

BB: Many of your photos are of your wife Elizabeth or other people in close proximity to you and some seem to be documenting very personal moments. How do you approach photographing these intimate moments, and how does it compare to the way you photograph strangers? Do you ever feel like photographing these personal moments changes the way you experience them, and if so, how?

MM: I’ve photographed Elizabeth for a few years now. I think by now she’s pretty comfortable with me pointing a camera at her. How I photograph her usually depends on what camera I’m using. Sometimes she’ll do a something that catches my eye and I’ll ask her to hold still. Others I’ll just wait with camera ready for something to look perfect. I think wanting to photograph them does change the way I experience them. I get frustrated wanting to make something instead of just enjoying the moment, and I think I put a bit of pressure on Elizabeth. It’s a bit of a struggle sometimes, wanting to make work out of my life and just living it. It’s my own damn fault though. 

I don’t often photograph strangers. It’s something I’m working on. The times I have I usually go about by talking to someone for a few minutes while I gather the courage to ask if they’d let me take their picture. I’ve only been turned down twice. Once a man flat out told me no, and the other I was already taking a picture of a woman sitting by the TN River, and she told me not to take her picture. Though I had already done it.

BB: You have moved around quite a bit in the past. What drew you towards the locations that you have lived?

MM: I’ve moved different places for different reasons. I left Florida originally with a friend because we were bored and had nothing left for us. We moved to Birmingham where we had a bunch of friends and could still play music. I moved to Auburn to work at a printshop which was amazing, but the boss was terrible. I moved to Atlanta originally because I thought I wanted to go to school, and we moved back because we were sick of Chattanooga. We moved to Chattanooga because Elizabeth got a better job. I love living in Atlanta, but I think I made my best work in Alabama. All of my favorite work was made while I lived in Birmingham, or when we’ve been in Alabama.

BB: Over the past couple of years you have settled down in Georgia, started a family and married. How has the transition from a traveling lifestyle to a more stationary one been and how, if at all has photo taking fit into it all?

MM: At first it wasn’t easy. I get very restless. I’m a pretty stubborn person too. I think it’s transitioned nicely though. I’ve just started looking at my work a different way. Which is never bad. Do I still want to travel constantly? Sure, but right now it’s not possible, so I make my work how I see it now. Honest and personal.

BB: When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up? How does it compare to the path that your life has ended up taking?

MM: When I was really young I wanted to be G.I. Joe or a professional baseball player. I think since I was about 14 or so, I’ve wanted to be either an artist or a musician. I guess I currently do one of those, but not for money yet. I’ve worked in grocery stores for the past ten years, except a two year run I did working at a printshop. Best job I’ve had, but worst boss I’ve had.

BB: You recently put together 10 copies of a handmade book of southern landscapes that includes a handwritten story and hand-printed cover. Was this your first time putting together a book, and how was the process of making it?

MM: I’ve made a handful of zines before. Just messing around for my own pleasure. I had planned to do more copies of this, but it ended up not working like I had hoped. It was just kind of testing things out to see if I could actually do it. I look at my photography the same way I looked at bands I’ve played with. You don’t wait around for someone to put out your music and help you along the way. You get out and do it yourself. Print your own books. Make your own shows. It’s frustrating for sure, but in the end I think it’s rewarding. The process was kind of figuring it out as I go. I fairly recently got a nicer printer and have been trying to figure out how to make it look the way I like. Still learning. I plan to make few more books. I have a couple projects lined up that I plan to make into bookform.

Michael’s Website
Michael’s Blog

Bite & Burrow’s next interview will be with an artist of Michael’s choice. like the Bite & Burrow Facebook page to see updates and follow to see future interviews.