Signature artist of the month
COMMERCIAL & EDITORIAL PHOTOGRAPHER,
For Michael Svoboda, his passions aren’t just sideline hobbies, he incorporates them into his life with fervor. A driving force among these: photography.
Ever since his father gave him an Agfa Super Silette rangefinder camera as a gift when he was 12 years old, he has been completely hooked.
Michael moved to California’s Yosemite National Park after college and combined photography with his love of adventure, the outdoors and rock climbing. A defining time for him as an artist, it was here where he realized his passion for photography could become a lifelong profession.
After 10 years in Yosemite, he decided it was time to leave the mountains for the beach and headed to San Diego, where he currently lives with his wife and two kids.
His commitment to shooting realistic, genuine imagery stems from his roots in photography, when he was simply capturing organic moments while climbing with his buddies.
In fact, his first foray into the world of iStock was actually by way of a photo he took of a friend slacklining 3,000 feet above the valley floor in Yosemite. While Michael’s sense of adventure remains as strong as ever, he says he has grown tremendously as an artist since that first shot.
Instead of his former, more observational approach, Michael now takes a more proactive role in shaping his shoots. He devotes considerable time to planning out the images he takes, making sure they are fully concepted and researched ahead of time.
Despite his methodical manner, ensuring his shots have an authentic look and feel is still Michael’s main prerogative. When picking models, he searches for people who have real experience with what he’s photographing. That way, he can capture real moments within a controlled setting.
It was with this same mindset that Michael approached his amputee shots. Rather than actively trying to portray a disabled person in a positive light, this shoot was more about capturing an incredible athlete in action — the fact that the model had a prosthetic leg was just an afterthought.
“He [the model] is a huge inspiration to me and everyone who meets him,” Michael says. “My challenge and overall goal was to capture just how amazing and inspiring an athlete and person he truly is.”
It is this attitude of portraying the model not as disabled, but rather, fully capable, that makes these photos so strong.
“These images are so powerful because you’re featuring someone who’s so inspirational to start off with,” Michael says, “and then you’re creating a beautiful image on top of that, and it just makes it that much more impactful.”
Growing up with a disabled brother, Michael hopes that these photos provide people with confidence and motivation.
“Anything that can help anybody with a disability is great,” he says. “When you lose a limb, you deal with depression and shock, but these pictures can show people dealing with this, saying ‘hey look at me, I mountain bike, I surf, I mountain climb — I can do everything.’”
“Everything I do is true to who I am.”
“Everything I do is true to who I am,” he says. “There’s a lot to say for when you go out to shoot to be a true artist and you’re not doing it for money, you’re doing it for the true love of what you do.”
No matter what location he is shooting from, his experience of living in Yosemite still comes through in his work. “I was photographing extreme people, amazing athletes doing amazing things,” he says, “and that always stuck with me.”
Michael says he strives to avoid photography trends. “I’ve just shot what I related to and created images that people want to look at. I definitely feel that photographing anything that breaks the orthodoxies of our world gives you an edge. As the world changes and the market trends change, I feel it's important as an artist to change too and reinvent yourself.”
Michael Svoboda’s photography melds displays of impressive athleticism with beautiful scenery, unique angles and artistic treatments to create eye-catching, powerful imagery.
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“The amputee model is a good friend of mine,” Michael says. “We both share similar outdoor interests — he swims, bikes, runs, surfs and is an accomplished Triathlete and Ironman.”
Using the model’s incredible story as inspiration, Michael wanted a location that represented survival, and the desert and its rugged terrain seemed like the best backdrop.
The whole shoot lasted for three days. In keeping with Michael’s propensity for authenticity, they actually experienced first-hand the harsh conditions he was trying to portray.
“We went out to some barren places accessible only by dirt roads. There was nothing out there. We really roughed it; we camped out and the nights dipped down to freezing. It was a very memorable stock shoot.” To this day, this shoot is very significant to Michael.
“Just as the sun started to rise and I was photographing my friend who has never let a disability hold him back, I found myself overcome with intense appreciation for the opportunity to capture this moment in time. It was surreal, and I wanted my photos to capture that moment to share with the world.”
“I found myself overcome with intense appreciation for the opportunity to capture this moment in time. It was surreal.”