M i k e S u g i a n t o
When looking at Mike’s work, I get a feeling of home. I grew up far far away from any mountains and even hills, opposite from what he did. I do think many of us, photographers and non-photographers, when looking at his work get that itch to just go out and explore. One of the biggest compliments one can get. Being an inspiration to action.
From the little I’ve gotten to know Mike, he lives as he teaches. The work he creates feels far from forced, it captures the essence of what it is to live in and breathe the mountain air. His photographs are natural, timeless and playful. Something that will stand time.
Michael Sugianto is an Adventure and Lifestyle photographer, based in Canada. I got the chance last December to hit Mike with a couple of questions about Life, Instagram, creative ups and downs. Hope you enjoy this short one!
Almost forgot… While reading his interview Mike suggested that you put on Alaska by Maggie Rogers and crank up the volym to max!
“Being present is something I am always focused on while traveling to a new place”
Tell me a little bit about yourself? When did you get into photography? When did you realize this passion to create?
My name is Michael Sugianto and I am an adventure and lifestyle photographer based out of Calgary Canada. I’m 24 years old and I just got a degree in chemical engineering; I know it’s a rather interesting combination with photography. I original got into photography because; I was a huge hiking buff. I was absolute obsessed with trying to summit as many mountains as possible! I bought a camera to capture the memories and the rest is kind of history.
What has the biggest challenges been so far with studying at University and doing photography at the same time? How do you balance them both?
I would say the biggest challenge I’ve face while studying at University and pursuing photography is time management. It hard to find time to email and search for work when work isn’t coming in by itself. It is sometime hard to balance it all when exams come up but I try to get out at least once a week to take photos.
Where did you grow up? How did that place play part of shaping you as an artist?
I grew up in Calgary, Canada. It really shaped me as an artist as I am only an hour drive away from Banff National Park. Being so close I always find myself going there at least once a week. In the summer months sometimes I’ll go multiple times a week to catch the sunset.
What makes you go up in the morning?
I would say what gets me out of bed in the morning, is the eagerness to create as well as getting better at my craft. As a freelancer, I am sure you know the feeling of getting a new client. It always motivates me to keep writing emails and trying to work with companies I’ve always dreamed about.
What’s your take on social media as a photographer? Positives? Not so good ones?
I would say my take on social media is it can be highly usefully and super rewarding if you have control over how you use it. I’ve met some of my best friends through apps like Instagram, and have also met hundreds of great people while I travel. In term of the “social” part of social media, I absolutely love it. It’s an awesome way to meet new people and learn new things as well. It’s awesome to bounce your ideas of peers.
With that being said I do see the negatives of it, like the countless hours I spend on my phone using apps like Instagram. In my opinion, they built the app on numbers so its only natural that people will want to accumulate more. That just my opinion but as a kid growing up, in school you were giving grades in which the higher the number the better you were doing. If you wanted a nicer camera you had to spend more money.
I feel like there are endless examples where having a large number benefited you in some way or form. But based on that it has also made Instagram rather toxic at times, where you have people only focus on the number rather than the images they are sharing. I could probably write more but I’ll leave it at that…
I’ve seen you Vlogging through Instagram-stories a lot lately. Was this anything that came natural to you? Why did you start and do you have an idea where this will lead?
Honestly, I just wanted people to kind of know me for more than just a profile picture on a platform with millions of users. It was weird at first but then it just got more natural. I still sometimes feel weird when I am talking to my phone in a coffee shop or supermarket hahaha. I would love to film some vlogs for YouTube or something but at the moment I don’t have the time. It’s been a positive experience I would say but occasionally you’ll get negative comments where people build up a judgment of me based on the limited content they see in my stories.
What inspire you to create? And how do you deal with motivational struggles the comes with creating?
What inspires me to create is the desire to tell awesome stories through my images. It is a loose statement but before heading out to take photos you really don’t know what you’re going to get and that keeps things exciting. Sometimes I go through ruts in my work where I feel super uninspired by my images, usually to counter this I going and visiting new places.
Any helpful advice for people who wants to evolve in their creative process?
Stop looking at Instagram for inspiration for your photos. Go to different places and surround yourself with like minded individuals.
When going on the road, do you plan ahead, where to go? What do shoot? Or is it mostly on impulse?
Generally, I don’t do a lot of planning, especially if I have a lot of time for the trip. But if it is only a short trip, then I usually look on Pinterest for locations that I want to visit. I will compile these locations as saved spots on Google map, and then the rest is all impulse. You end up having a bunch of stars on your map and then you just pick and choose what you want to see.
Where is your favorite place on this earth?
I would have to say Banff National Park as there always seems like endless place to visit here.
Where do you choose to “escape” when needing some peace?
When I need some space to escape and think I usually go out to the mountain by myself and go to some of my favorite spot to just hangout. I sometimes bring a notebook to write down thought or use my phone.
What important life lessons has the road taught you?
While living on the road I’ve learn to just appreciate the moment. Being present is something I am always focused on while traveling to a new place, remembering that traveling is way more then just taking cool picture for your memories. Experiencing the place for its culture is highly important to me.