Michael Sharkey is a portrait photographer whose work has appeared in hip and shiny magazines like BUST, Elle, Flaunt, and Interview. While his fashion shoots and portraits of celebs like Claire Danes, Snooki, and Johnny Weir are great, what caught our eye was his ongoing project Queer Kids, a series of deeply personal portraits of gay teens from across America.
The work is inspired by Michael’s experience growing up gay in Colorado in the 80s. Michael’s motivation for the project is to provide a voice for today’s queer teens that his generation did not have. The Queer Kids portraits capture these youths in all their vulnerability, strength, and courage.
The best photographs tell a story – not in a journalistic sense, but in a way that captures the imagination and compels us to follow the narrative of the shot beyond the frame. Michael Sharkey is more than a photographer, he’s a story-teller. We can’t wait to see what comes next!
1. What is your hometown?
I was born in NYC (Staten Island) but moved before I was even one year old to Iceland and lived there until I was about four years of age. (My father was a doctor in the Navy.) We then moved for a very brief but memorable moment to Glasgow, Montana and then finally to Golden, Colorado where I lived with my parents and three little brothers – all three born there – until I graduated from high school and moved to Vermont to go to college.
This is a long way of saying that I think I would call Golden my hometown as I “came of age” there. I was what was then called a Death Rocker which was sort of a pre-cursor to Goth, influenced heavily by the Glam scene of the late Seventies. We drank, did drugs and loitered in mind-numbing boredom. My favorite band was Bauhaus and I still truly admire them. In all our suburban, culture-less glory we aspired to and affected the sensual sophistication of Bowie and Deneuve in “The Hunger”. (Just writing those words make me feel a bit queasy from this distance!) Not too much else really stuck from the era, save The Cure, The Smiths, Siouxie Sioux and maybe a couple others I can’t think of presently (the drugs!).
2. With what fictional character do you most identify?
One of my favorite movies of all time is “Harold & Maud” and I totally “get” Harold (played by Bud Court). In fact, his Jaguar E-Type-cum-hearse was the most coveted material thing I could imagine acquiring for many, many years.
3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.
I had to defer to my boyfriend on this. We’ve been together for ten years so I trust his opinion. In the comedy version, he says it might be Jason Bateman and in the romantic drama, James McAvoy. It’s these kinds of answers that has kept us happily together.
4. What work of art speaks to your soul?
I was a classics major in school and I’ve always had a love for ancient and renaissance art and architecture, but within that, I definitely tend to lean toward the grotesque and especially the absurd. Bruegel’s (the elder’s) depiction of peasants have always charmed the pants off me. And, in the same vein, Jon Pylypchuk’s puppets evoke a kind of humorous pathos that’s just unbeatable.
5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?
On my nightstand right now I have about half a dozen books I’ve been juggling… Peter Ackroyd’s biography of William Blake, Roberto Bolano’s “The Savage Detectives”, Bernard Shaw’s “On Photography”, “Shamrock Tea” by Ciaran Carson, and “Underworld” by Don DeLillo which was given to me when it came out but was too intimidating in it’s immensity that I never dared pick it up, lest I throw my back out.
6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?
I still listen to the oldies from The Seventies and Eighties (Eno being a stand-out) but have slowly gravitated to Blues, Soul & R&B from the Fifties and Sixties. Kind of obsessed with this one right now, but mostly because of this fantastic video:
7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?
I’ll cry at a Purina Cat Chow commercial if in the right mood. I recently re-watched “Witnail & I” with Richard E. Grant and cried laughing.
8. Cat person or dog person?
As my great friend, Rosie likes to say, the internet has proven that Catz are funnier than Dogs, which I happily concede. (I mean, LOL!!) But, as a control freak, I admire the undying loyalty of the canine species. Also they are more clown-like and clumsy and you can rough-house with them a bit.
9. What is more important, truth or kindness?
That’s an easy one… kindness. There is much hard and even brilliant truth in the world but kindness is relatively rare. In terms of market value it’s a no-brainer.
10. How do you define sin?
I’d probably have to say that going against your own nature is a “sin”. But good luck figuring out what your true nature is!
11. How do you define virtue?
All I can say about virtue is: I know it when I see it.
12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?
My mother always said she wanted her headstone to read “Out To Lunch” which I thought was quite nice.
Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Rosie Schaap (NY Times Magazine columnist of “DRINK”). But don’t let her see my answers before you invite her!! Of course, tell her I sent you…