After nearly 20 years as record label executive and talent scout, Michael Alago, New Yorker in heart and soul, left the music business in 2003 in order to dedicate his time to his other passion: photography. And not without success. Michael started his photography career with a Polaroid camera, shooting series of erotically charged portraits. Since then he has equipped himself with a large variety of camera’s, developed his eye for muscle-bound, tattooed rough-necks to the level of perfection and published two excellent photocbooks, Rough Gods and Brutal Truth, displaying friends, models and bodybuilders set against the gritty, urbane backdrop that is New York City. This Spring, Michael Alago surprised again with a new book in which he, as a matter of speaking, returns to his Polaroid days but using the exciting new digital techniques brought by Hipstamatic. For his book Beautiful Imperfections Michael traveled around the globe and shot vivid, uncompromising images of raw emotion in the poetic and in-your-face expression that is his signature style. Indeed beautiful Imperfections is composed by photos hot by using Hipstamatic alone, resulting in a series of surreal and dreamlike portraits. Enough reason for BeautifulMag to talk to Michael Alago.
Michael, it is unbelievable but it is already 7 years ago that we last published your work. Tell us a bit about what has happened to you in those years between 2006 and 2013?
Michael: LOL. So much has happened, but the highlights are that I self published a book of poems, observations and rants (with my friend Mina Caputo) called Night Blooming Jasmine Will Never Smell the Same and in 2011, another photo book of mine was published by German publishing house Bruno Gmünder called Brutal Truth–a 265 page book of my “Rough Gods” www.roughgods.com along with my signature flower images and some poems and positive thoughts. I executive-produced the last two Cyndi Lauper albums Bring Ya to The Brink and Memphis Blues for which we got a Grammy award nomination, and this year, my latest book has been released called Beautiful Imperfections.
You have earned your stripes in the music industry first before concentrating on photography. How did you come to make that switch?
Michael: Thank you for the kind words. I worked at Elektra records, Geffen records and Palm Pictures for my entire career as an A&R executive (talent scout). It was extraordinary and what happens I find is all great things come to an end. 25 glorious years. The industry was really starting to change in 2004 and I was looking to switch careers so I delved in my second love-photography. Photography has kept me in the public eye with all three of my books and I have had the opportunity to meet some awesome men in the process. Life is good!
You are known to be quite a visionary. You have discovered Metallica, worked with Nina Simone and were among the first to recognize the potential of rough, sensual and sexual men as subject of art photography. Now there is your project Beautiful Imperfections. What can you tell us about this new book?
Michael: I have been grateful to work with gifted artists that I had either discovered or help give a second life too. Now, with photography, I can share my vision of men and their beauty and what turns me on and hope in that process my audience stays on the journey with me for the long ride. The new book Beautiful Imperfections was initially an experiment with the iPhone and the Hipstamatic app. I was loving the results that various “films,” “lenses,” and “flashes” afforded me on the iPhone so I continued with project. The images were fabulous I kept shooting until I had over 200 or so pictures and then presented them to my publisher, Michael Taubenheim at Bruno Gmünder. He loved the idea, so with my friend and designer Ian Jopson, the gorgeous book came to fruition.
What makes making portraits with Hipstamatic different from using a regular professional camera with filters?
Michael: The difference is that there's a phone that’s a camera in my back pocket hat’s easy and cool and fun to use. I keep it simple and play with all the “films” and “lenses” and see what I like and just go for it. The pictures can be quite dazzling. I smile at the technology and just embrace it.
Hipstamatic comes with many different settings. How did you select the ones you wanted to use?
Michael: I experiment with all the possibilities on the Hipstamatic app and just wing it till I get it all right. The fun is in the unknown.
With iPhone apps such as Hipstamatic, Instagram and Lo-Mob, how do you see the future of digital photography?
Michael: The future of digital photography as we can see is constantly surprising and delighting us. Instant photography with all the cameras we have in front of us to use show us that the visual possibilities are endless.
After this revolutionary and bold project, what is next on Michael Alago’s wish list?
Michael: Oh my. Lets see. On June 14th I did a signing of Beautiful Imperfections at a great new gay bookstore called Bureau of General Services Queer Division located at 27 Orchard Street in NYC. That same evening my great friend, transgender artist singer songwriter Mina Caputo, joined me and we read from our poetry book, Night Blooming Jasmine Will Never Smell the Same. Also on August 1st I have an exhibit of new work at Cock Gallery in Portland Oregon with my new partner in crime fellow photographer Marne Lucas. The Portland show is a real beauty. Check the website for details. The gallery is located at 625 NW Everett Street in Portland. I'll be looking for hot men to photograph in Portland so I hope they all get in touch with me. :-)
My wish list is all coming true and that’s a blessing so I keep on keepin' on and keep moving forward and hope that great things continue to happen. Like this interview, so thank you! See you on the road somewhere. –BM-
MICHAEL ALAGO | BEAUTIFULMAG