This portfolio appears in VICE Magazine's 2019 Photo Issue. With this issue we wanted to celebrate the absurd, the lighthearted, and the humorous. It’s important to take a break from the real world. As much as we need to be informed, engaged, and aware, we also need to laugh. We wanted to champion the people making art with a sense of humor. In today’s climate, there’s something nicely subversive about that. You can read more about our theme in the letter from our editor.
Michael Northrup received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980 and prior to that a BFA from Ohio University. Between his degrees, he lived primarily on the West Coast, where he studied with photographers Jack Welpott and Judy Dater, and also spent time in Prescott, Arizona, learning from Frederick Sommer. He then taught for ten years before moving to Baltimore, where he now shoots commercially. His art has been shown and published internationally.
We first featured Northrup’s work in our 2012 photo issue and then again in 2017 in our Looking Glass Issue, which he also shot the cover for. He’s been documenting his life—and that of his friends and family, who are a huge part of his work—through funny snapshots since the early 70s. As Northrup explained to us, “I love irony… not exclusively, but I have a special appreciation for it. And it underlies a lot of my work. 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 50s my older brother told me that 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.’ 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.”