Michael Winters has always lived in Louisville, KY. He grew up in the city, started a family in the city, and still works in the city. It's the most familiar place there is to the 35-year-old photographer, partly because there never really was another one. But in 2011, while going through a tough divorce and a struggling family life, Winters fell into a rut. He went to work and then came home every day and walked to work the same way every day. And he began to think about people he knew who had lived around the world, wishing he was someone else, somewhere else.
Winters said he needed a reminder of why he lived in Kentucky and lived the life he did, so he drew a reminder on a map. In big, block letters, Winters wrote the words "Where The Good Way Is," which served as an emotional pick-me-up as well as motivation for a new photo project. Over the next couple of years, Winters would visit each block in the words he wrote down, taking a photo in each area to remind him why he loved his hometown and himself.
"I recognized in myself a desire to be somewhere else and wanting a different life than the life I actually had," says Winters, who was one of the first four visual artists to be awarded Kentucky Art's Council's Emerging Artist Award back in 2010. "But the conclusion I would always come back to would be, 'No, I do want to be here. This is my place.'"
Using a compact Canon S95 camera, Winters captured 187 photographs for the typographically-based project, all taken within the mile-and-a-half area between his home and work.
Most of the primarily black-and-white photos were taken along the sidewalks that Winters walked along the route he drew, while one image was taken from the home of a resident who invited him inside and another—the only colored photograph in the entire collection—was captured from the front porch of his then-home. That photograph features a power line dividing the sky between a tree in the foreground and clouds floating in the background. Winters says the clouds separated into the top half of the image reminds him of a heavenly and peaceful presence, much like the one he was searching for in his own environment, yet still out of reach.
Winters' project took nearly three years to complete due to the same lack of confidence he hoped to cure with the project. "I was getting stuck, not really believing in it," the Louisville-based photographer says. But he continued to find new things in the world around him and rediscover the intricacies of his environment.
"It was a way of further rooting myself in that place and kind of committing to it. It reminded me that this is my place and this is where I want to be. This is where the good way is," Winters says. "Photography is a way that I try to keep my eyes fresh even when my surroundings are familiar. There's always something new to see. There's always something new to experience, even in a small geographical area."
To see more of Michael Winters' photography and typography art, visit his website here.