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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Michael Chevalier: Dynamism

After leaving a life as a tree-climbing landscaper, Michael Chevalier is creating high-impact, high-concept fashion and beauty photography that shows he’s still striving for new heights

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Michigan-based photographer Michael Chevalier is always up for a challenge; in fact, he thrives on it. His dynamic, high-concept fashion and beauty shoots are only restrained by economic realities. While relatively new to the photo scene, his images are those of a seasoned pro, created by an artist with an endless imagination and the technical skills to pull them off.

DPP: Where do the ideas for your conceptual shoots come from?

Michael Chevalier: My head! Back in school, I was doing a lot of painting and drawing so I’ve always had that artistic bone in me. I would enter art contests as a teenager and would do well and win sometimes. The way I approach photography is an extension of that. I feel like I have hundreds of ideas ready to go. One of the things that holds me back from doing all of them is money. Some of the shots I do require several assistants. I’m still struggling. I’ve only been doing this about five years.

DPP: How did you get into photography initially?

Westcott-endorsed pro Michael Chevalier is entirely self-taught. He remarks that he has a will to create the next “best shot ever,” and that it’s this consistent and constant dedication that pushes his work to the next level.
Chevalier: My girlfriend at the time, who’s now wife, wanted to get into modeling. I took some snapshots and she put them on the website OMP, OneModelPlace, for her, a site similar to Model Mayhem. I looked at the website and said, “Oh, boy, I better try this again.” There was a lot of good work out there, and I knew I could do better. We went back out, and this time I really liked the results. So did other people, including other friends of ours who wanted to model, and it went on from there. At the time, I was a tree-climbing landscaper. I used to swing around in trees with chain saws.

DPP: Where are you based, and what sort of commercial work are you doing?

Chevalier: In a small town called Smiths Creek in Michigan, an hour north of Detroit. I’ve done a number of campaigns for hair salons, as well as for MAC Cosmetics in Cleveland. My rock ’n’ roll girls series, for example, was done for a salon. I recently teamed up with two other photographers to do a high-concept calendar. I also shoot for local model agencies, but not a whole lot because some are a bit scared of my photography. It’s a bit too edgy for their purposes. For models just starting out, they need just plain shots, and I sometimes have a hard time pulling myself back down to reality.

DPP: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being based in Michigan, far from New York or Los Angeles?

Chevalier: If you start out in New York and can manage to make a name for yourself, you probably can move to wherever you want to be based. But when you’re trying to start out in a rural area of Michigan, it makes it a little tougher. But I like being out in the boonies. I’m a country boy, and I intend to stay that way. I grew up in Vermilion, Ohio, a small town midway between Cedar Point and Cleveland, until we moved to Michigan a couple of years ago. A big advantage of these areas is that I do have interesting places for backdrops that are way off the beaten path.


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