Michelle Magdalena Maddox
Michelle Magdalena Maddox is a celebrated photographer and activist. Introduced to photography in childhood, she was fascinated by the mystery of red light and closing doors in the darkroom and by the magic of what came out. After her degree from the historic Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, Magdalena devoted herself to fine art and activism, and did some commercial photography work internationally to balance the business.
Creativity and alchemy come together in the darkroom and make their own magic. Michelle makes silver gelatin prints, because she can turn a photograph into a work of art, hand-crafting tones and presentation to tell the story. She also makes platinum prints, a special ritual using precious metals.
Her MILK series is a symbol for being a woman. It evokes motherhood and care, confidence and life force, disregarding the culture in which bodies and sexuality are something to be ashamed of. Michelle explores women and their bodies as divine, a part of nature. She concentrates on the abstraction of form and the graphic simplification of body and skin tones in MILK.
A large outdoor hot tub was filled with a mixture of water and milk. Scaffolding was built, and Michelle was raised about 9 metres on a crane, so she could shoot from above on her 4×5 camera to show abstracted bodies. “It’s a challenge to manage the lighting, styling and communications with the models while up on the platform above, not to mention insurance,” says Michelle. “Trying to control or communicate with 14 women, naked in a vessel full of milk, is actually very challenging! They are always giggling and having a great time. They can’t hear me while partially submerged in milk. I usually submit to the chaos, get naked myself and resort to play and enjoy the experience.”
The Divine Feminine series examines entanglement with nature, echoing, resonance and dissonance. “Magnolia” was shot under a 400-year-old cypress tree at 7am and Michelle had found a giant magnolia blossom. The model is 2 meters tall; the gigantic flower almost dwarfs her figure and presents a fairy-like quality to the image; a humbling to nature and a graceful adoration of its beauty and ours. “Venus” explores the empowered yet cyclical feminine concept of fertility. The giant nest was a temporary installation on private property and the model stands in front of the nest with grasses shooting up, referencing a masculine force of fertilization.
The “Resurgence” series is set in Big Sur, California, and expresses the feminine returning to the forefront of our story and leadership at this time when a balance with nature is crucial to our survival.
Michelle’s work has been recognized by the International Photo Awards, The Hallmark Hall of Fame, the Pen Women of America. Her self-portrait ‘My Ophilia”, has a home in the permanent collection of the Steinbeck Museum. She is a board member of the Weston Collective, a non-profit that provides grants for high school and college photography students for traditional darkroom photography on the Monterey Peninsula. She is also a founding member of the Juneteenth Coalition, which has provided grants to the NAACP youth chapter and started a college scholarship fund through the Monterey Peninsula Community Foundation.
Michelle Magdalena has several limited-edition portfolios for art lovers and collectors and produced and sold 1,000 copies of the arts-activism journal BOHYPSIAN in 2019. The publication, rebranded as Magdalena Magazine, will be released in 2022. The journal was created to make her art more available to the public and to provide a home to her documentary works and activist community for healing and social evolution.
Michelle Magdalena is a German and US citizen and lives in Pacific Grove, California. She travels regularly to see family in the Black Forest.
instagram @maddfoxmagdalena @magdalenamagazine