“An Early Experiment with Light.” An Interview with Michael Philip Manheim

“This was an early experiment with light, in my amateur photographer era. I learned, practiced, experimented, tried out the twists and turns that led to becoming a professional photographer. My explorations ranged from lighting, in this “Girl Smoking” photograph in 1959, to the kinds of photojournalism that I admired in the picture magazines of the time.”

Michael Philip Manheim sat down for this interview with the American Society of Media Photographers after winning a Best of 2017 award from the association.

ASMP: Is there anything unique about your style or approach?

Michael Philip Manheim: Photography became an outlet not only for creative expression, but for dealing with feelings, as well, in what now seems like a straight-laced decade of the 1950s. We didn’t directly express feelings in my family, to be sure, since we were expected to know what the other person was thinking.

As a result, my photography tuned in to body language, to feelings. A photojournalistic approach to my people pictures sharpened my reflexes, creating an ability to react while simultaneously forming a compositional frame. I later developed a multiple exposure technique for a fine art photography exploration that fit well with galleries and museums, led to residencies, and went online

ASMP: When did you join ASMP and what do you find most valuable about your membership?

MPM: I joined ASMP on January 1, 1969 when I became a professional photographer full time. These were learning days, long before more than a handful of us were interested in business practices. I didn’t know, for example, what to charge for stock photography when I brought out my own catalog in 1969. I turned to ASMP for so much information, and for help when needing to confront agents and others who sought to use my photographs without compensation.

ASMP: What kind of gear do you use?

MPM: Cameras have always been tools for me,  and I ended up with Nikons for the better part of my career. I was a member of Nikon Professional Services and the F3HP with motor drive let me create my multiple exposures. With digital Nikons it became cumbersome and I had to switch to Olympus cameras.

ASMP: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started taking photos?

MPM: Pricing for assignments and stock, now easy to come by but taking much research back then and other business practices now readily available, but virtually unknown back then.

ASMP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your work?

MPM: Turning pro was a natural outcome, after finding an exciting creative outlet when I was 13. Music, painting, tap dancing, stamp collecting and more didn’t do it for me, but photography became a passion. I was lucky that my local high school offered a class that in 1955 became a club for me and some kindred souls.

When I hit my teens, having tried out so many other creative outlets, I realized that I had found my medium. A camera went almost everywhere with me, and I introduced available light with 35mm cameras to my high school classmates who were using flashbulbs on the Speed Graphics we were assigned.

I was expected to stay in the family clothing store. I spent much of the first 25 years of my life devoted to that enterprise. Photography was understood to be my enthusiasm indulged on the side. As I started winning in contests, however, I had developed a fervor that wouldn’t quit.

Developing film and creating prints helped give me an essential grounding in the technical aspects of photography. At first enamored of equipment, I did come around to regarding cameras as tools that would serve my sense of composition, lighting, and empathy. Embracing the digital era was a logical next step.

I’m still active, photographing as well as going into my archives and editing out a series of monographs that are offered on Amazon.

View this interview and learn more about the ASMP.

Flash! Action and Steel

Worker after WWII

After World War II ended in 1945, factories were smoking with consumer production once again. “Smoking” was slang for action, but literal when steel was formed, a molten pig iron mixture poured into molds at the American Steel Foundries, in Alliance, Ohio. My passion for photography was smoking too, when I entered Alliance High School in 1955. Leland H. “Whit” Whitacre not only taught photography, he created a kind of fiefdom where we were encouraged to explore our craft and our world. I had found my kindred souls. Whit assigned us Speed Graphic press cameras, and flashbulbs were needed for low light situations. Maverick me started experimenting with available light. So when Bill on the ladder fired his flash, and I was using a long exposure, the magic appeared.


The past and the present are closer than we often realize,so I’m going back into the archives to see what I saw long ago First up is this sampling of my documentary photography, a nostalgic collection of How Once We Looked. I’ve selected images that seem memorable, from the perspective of a life spent pursuing my passion. Here’s how the See-Saw collection now appears on Amazon:

Bringing Darkroom Awareness to the Digital Age

May 20, 1956 one month before my 16th birthday

One month from my 16th birthday, I created this 1956 version of a “selfie.” Easy to do when you’re photographing into a mirror.  The alternative was to use a self-timer. In either case, it was difficult to line up with a rangefinder camera that resisted getting two edges of the mirror’s frame straight. So what to do? Easy enough – just wait! In our era of Photoshop. I simply lined it up.

My point? Even then, the darkroom translated handily to the digital age.  I had long ago appreciated what you’ll see on a histogram: the range of tones from whitest white to blackest black.  Arranged properly, this gives you not only a range of tones but a happy medium, so you have readable mid-tones and a pleasing contrast as well. The effect then is snappy, what we used to try to achieve in creating a print. So now I have both vintage prints, the ones I created close to the time I developed my negatives, as well as pigmented ink jet contemporary prints.

These are just as archival but with today’s technology. It lets me tweak my images into a pinpointed perfection not possible in the early days.

Ah, it’s a great time to be digitizing my archives!


You can see this image and more, in my See-Saw book, previewing on Amazon


Art Should Be Everywhere

Art should be everywhere – or so the gallery site Daylighted declares. As part of this tribute, Daylighted recently chose me as its featured artist of the month.

Daylighted is a service that places visual artist into non-traditional exhibition spaces such as hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and more. It seeks to “change the way you see art. Daylighted transforms places…into digital art galleries and offer[s] them an opportunity to easily display and sell an exclusive collection of art from worldwide and local artists.”

Daylighted featured my nostalgic photography, including the images in my updated monograph: “See Saw: How Once We Looked.”

Sports team

You can view and purchase more images on the Daylighted site, at: https://www.daylighted.com/explore/artist/MichaelPhilipManheim

These images reflect my overall fascination with movement as well as with light, that showed in the photographs I created in my early teens. I see that I developed reflexively and intuitively, in capturing the essence of a moment. I see that the innate compositional sense expanded into a style. And so on, all insights offering me a chance to pause and reflect as I go forward.

See-Saw, A Sampler of How Once We Looked, is now available for purchase at Amazon.com at this link: http://a.co/fSP97AQ

Delightful Instants

Capturing a Moment in Time

Delightful Instants

In an era of flashbulbs and press cameras, I was exploring what available light had to offer. It presented the world as we saw it, without the harsh effect of a single flash. Both techniques froze a moment that goes by in a blur.

Photographing peak action stopped the movement at its height.  It allowed slow shutter speeds in an era of slow films. And it preserved a feeling forever.


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