A couple of months ago André Mora and I had the pleasure of working with photographer Mike Kane on the avalanche feature for our December issue of Seattle Met. I’ve come across Mike’s portfolio several times since arriving in Seattle back in July, and I’ve been a big fan since day one. Mike does a fantastic job of capturing a moment in time in such a beautiful and simplistic way that it looks effortless—and few editorial and documentary photographers can hit that note just right.

While all of his work inspires, what I’d like to focus on with this post is his documentary projects Gangland, USA and Generation Homeless (samples pictured above). Both of these projects (as well as several others on his site) really blew me away. It’s great to see a photo essay of this sort where the photographer gets so close to his subjects and conveys such raw emotion in a reality setting. When I asked him how he gets himself so immersed into their world he replied:

“I guess I’ve always been drawn to social documentary stuff. For me pictures need to express something real, something true. If there’s no significance to that truth then the pictures matter less. That’s where the power lies. And I bet that perspective came from my first serious foray into photography—I was 19, teaching English in a really remote part of Nicaragua. Taking pictures was how I made sense of all the cultural craziness I was experiencing. I could behold it, and think about it, and then ultimately share it and talk about it. I would go from a place of feeling awkward and foreign and find my way through that by taking pictures and thinking about those pictures. So doing gangs, and homeless kids, or whatever, it’s the same thing. It’s recognizing some complicated, unfamiliar situation and wanting to jump in, wanting to work through that confusion and come out with some sort of tangible representation. I think there are definitely some altruistic motivations there—I fully believe in the social benefits from understanding marginalized, disenfranchised groups, for example. But I also think a lot of what drives me is just my own personal curiosity and sense of adventure.”

That sense of adventure must work. The photos are thoughtful, emotional, intriguing and powerful. Its a perfect example to young and aspiring photographers on how you don’t necessarily need a gigantic budget, studio space, complex lighting or hired models to take an award-winning and inspiring work of art.

I highly recommend a flip-through of Mike’s current projects. It’ll probably be the best 10 minutes you spend all day.

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