Tag Archives: Michael M. Koehler

BP, Michael M. Koehler, and a Shrimp Fisherman Named Ricky.

UPDATE: BP oil spill gets closer to home.

A view from above: Oil-infested waters surrounding the Barrier Islands in Louisiana. Photograph courtesy of Michael M. Koehler.

Today I ran into Michael M. Koehler, while reporting in the field on my Anthony Pisano story in the East Village. I became friends with Koehler – a professional photographer and NYU Tisch Alum – after I wrote an artist profile about him in 2009. Since then, I have collaborated sporadically with Koehler. I did a photo project on him in Spring 2010 which I posted here the other day.

Koehler has just come back from Louisiana, where he was photographing the increasing devastation of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its nearby coasts. Today, CNN covered a press conference where Admiral Thad Allen – who is heading Obama’s relief efforts – answered questions about the Government’s approach to the problem.

On top of the environmental damages that the oil spill is inflicting on the Gulf, a secondary effect is increasing job loss of Louisiana’s Shrimp fishermen who have not been able to do their job. (Think Forest Gump, but much worst, because the boats aren’t ruined – the catch is.)

While BP has hired some of these out-of-work fishermen to join clean-up efforts, they have not been given the necessary safety equipment to carry on the tasks at hand. The combined toxicity of the oil and the chemical dispersants (which are illegal in many countries and have been banned in the U.K.) that BP is using to break-down that oil, has caused the company to recall several clean-up boats due to their crews suffering health problems. (The New York Times covered that specific story here.)

Koehler has many contacts who he has documented in and around NOLA, one of which is Ricky Robin, a seventh generation shrimper in Bernard Parish, LA. Robin and his boat are now working for BP to help boom the waters of the Barrier Islands.

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Photo Story: Michael M. Koehler Gets In Front of the Lens.

This past semester at the Arthur L. Carter Institute for Journalism at NYU I took a photojournalism class, which really pushed me as a photographer. My professor, David Handschuh, taught me to approach photography in a different manner than what I had been doing already. For the past nine years I had become accustomed to shooting strictly in Black & White film, with my focus resting on “art” photography, whatever that maybe. Photojournalism is a horse of a different color and in pushing me to see things differently – and in digital color – it has really expanded my mind’s eye as a photographer and a journalist.

I did a couple of photo stories, which I will post here. The first story is an environmental portrait on professional photographer Michael M. Koehler. Koehler, who I have also profiled in the past, is predominantly a classical Black & White photographer. But don’t let the word “classical” throw you – Koehler has a wonderful way of seeing the visual landscape of the world and does so in a manner that is both nostalgic and new.

Here are the images. I shot them all with my Canon 5D on location at Koehler’s East Village apartment, which also doubles as his photography studio. Enjoy.

Michael M. Koehler with his Leica 35mm film camera.

Koehler in his home/studio's darkroom. Koehler looking at his plethura of negatives, choosing an ideal frame.

Koehler sits outside on a small bench outside of his apartment. Koehler's impressive line-up of cameras.

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Michael M. Koehler Finds Focus Through a Lens

By: Andrea F. Pagliai

At age 26, Michael M. Koehler is starting a new chapter in his life. His photography show “Parade” just opened in Philadelphia, his wife Lauren is three months pregnant, he is moving into a new apartment in the East Village, and he just shaved his six-inch-long beard for the first time in a year.

Michael M. Koehler. Photo: Andrea F. Pagliai

Michael M. Koehler. © Andrea F. Pagliai.

It took him five minutes to get ready this morning. He wears his typical green-toned camouflage hunting pants, a beige collared polo, and leather hunting boots. He has his Leica M6 film camera in a holster, strapped onto his belt. He rarely carries much else.

Koehler is a presence with his 6-foot, roughly 200-pound frame. His red hair does its own thing and he has three days worth of red stubble spread out along his strong features—A departure from his former mountain man’s red beard.

Because of photography, “I knew it was a good scene,” Koehler reminisces. With the garage door open, Koehler sat facing the wilderness of his father’s picturesque rural Philadelphia home. “I sat in a chair, with the dog in a chair next to me, and my father just started trimming my beard. He cut it all off into a drywall bucket. Meaningful, wise—Boom, the beard was gone.” He photographed the entire process.

It’s a beautiful day, one of this spring’s first. Koehler gets into a cab. The destination: Grand Central Station. The 11 a.m. light streams through the window onto Koehler. It has been a year since one could actually see his strong jaw line, let alone the rest of his face. The beard, “physically and emotionally, was another layer of distance between me and the world,” muses Koehler. It made sense at the time, but now it’s a new time. A new show. A new face.

He meets Peter Quillin, aka Kid Chocolate, a boxer Koehler has photographed for the past year. They plan to go to a Reptile Expo in White Plains, NY, where Quillin hopes to buy an African tarantula. Koehler goes along to make a moment into memory, a memory into art.

Koehler and Peter Quillin aka "Kid Chocolate" look on at the display of tarantulas. Koehler is constantly photographing the scene. Photo: Andrea F. Pagliai.

Koehler and Peter Quillin aka "Kid Chocolate" look on at the display of tarantulas. Koehler is con stantly photographing the scene. © Andrea F. Pagliai.

Koehler finds his focus through the lens of the camera. His distinct vision of the world around him, molded by the relationships in both his past and present, make his black and white photographs so entrancingly captivating.

After graduating in 2005 with a B.F.A. from NYU’s Tisch School of the Performance Arts, Koehler remained in New York to pursue his dream as a photographer. His new gallery show, “Parade,” which opened April 3, 2009 in Philadelphia, is a point of departure for both Koehler’s art and his personal life.

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