Michael Ast resides in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, situated between Philadelphia and New York City. He has worked professionally as both a photojournalist and commercial photographer. Now, nothing interests Michael more than photographic narrative, utilizing a mixture of self-expression and photo documentation . . . to borrow the reality before him and live an incessant curious life beneath the surface of things. He questions matter-of-fact-like, “Really, that should be everyone’s mission as we waltz through this short time and place of ours. No?”
In his photographs, we see Michael applying a trained and thorough eye from his experience and education as a photojournalist. He graduated a Bachelor of Journalism from Boston University’s School of Communication. “I concentrated in photojournalism, embracing the reportage concepts of the photo essay,” he says, “which I was on deadline to formulate, shoot and print myself each week.” The conceptual framework of the photo essay is apparent in virtually all of his photographic series.
An enormous fan of the printed image and book format, Michael’s first book Trying to Find the Ocean was released in June, 2014. The self-published book, printed in an edition of 300 offset-printed copies, depicts a rampage-like journey through the city of Baltimore. Michael incorporates both an intense outward gaze on the urban environment and its inhabitants, and an inward gaze, employing images to function esoterically as emotive and cognitive intimations. The sequencing reads at once like a cyclically entrapped day-in the-life narrative, but also as a long visual poem.
Michael’s work has been showcased in multiple group and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally. In 2011, songwriter and rocker Kurt Vile used his photograph on his critically acclaimed album Smoke Rings for My Halo (Matador Records). Michael’s photographs were recently shown throughout Spain in the traveling exhibition Souvenirs, sponsored by the Institut d’Estudis Ilerencs in Lleida, Spain.
Since 2008 Michael has been experimenting with printmaking, expanding his photographic output through the intaglio etching process. The laborious, but meditative act of making etchings has drastically changed his approach to photographing the places and people in his surroundings. Like a broken record Michael emphasizes instinct, visceral seeing, and emotional cohesion to one’s gut.