The Scene

Mike Emery | Artist Spotlight

At Fasthouse, we’ve always been into art and the artists that create it. And with that being said, we’ve decided to regularly feature artists that create, push the boundaries, and above all, inspire. For our first installment, we spoke with Mike Emery, a Pennsylvania-born photographer that specializes in motocross.

As an art, photography can speak to people just as much as a painting or sculpture or well-choreographed dance. And similar to any art form, photography takes years to learn and a lifetime to master. Emery has been shooting photos professionally for five years, and he’s already turning heads. His photos are well composed, clean, and evoke emotion or a feeling of excitement—all qualities a good photographer should strive for.

How did you get started in photography?

I’m from Eastern Pennsylvania. I grew up riding dirt bikes with my family, riding BMX, and riding just about anything that I could get my hands on. I eventually got super hooked on skateboarding after I outgrew my 80cc dirt bike. I was at the point where I either needed to buy a 125 or 250, or buy a skateboard because my neighbor skated. I went with a skateboard, because it was cheaper. I always loved photography for the art, but I never shot. I then picked up a camera about six years ago at a time when I still skateboarded, but I was kind of burnt out on it, so I decided to shoot dirt bikes.

How long have you been pursuing photography as a career?

I’d say that I’ve been shooting super seriously for about three to four years. The rest would be learning.

Were you ever formerly trained or has photography been something that you’ve taught yourself?

It’s all self-taught. I never went to school for it. I read a lot, and anything I couldn’t figure out, I learned on my own through trial and error.

Through learning, and even still, what has been the biggest breakthrough for you in learning photography?

Just figuring out the simplest stuff—how it all comes together in a camera as far as shutter speed and everything goes. For me, the coolest stuff was learning how to do a good panning shot or how to get a truly sharp image, and then looking at it and being like, “Whoa, I figured it out!” And when you visualize a shot and it actually comes together; that to me is one of the coolest things. When you can think of something before you even do it, and then it comes together exactly how you planned. At the same time, though, it’s fun to let something come together fully on it’s own—that can almost be more fun.

Do you ever have times where you’re shooting all day, and think you haven’t gotten anything, but then when you download your shots, you’re happy with what you got?

That does happen. I’ve gone back to look for photos, and I’ll come across photos that I almost discarded and wrote off, but when I look at them again I’m like, “Whoa that’s actually really cool.” It makes you wonder what slips through the cracks, because a lot of the stuff we do is so high-paced. Obviously, you do get the good stuff, but sometimes I do feel like there is stuff that falls through the cracks.

What makes a good photo?

My favorite thing—and I hope people notice—is capturing a moment that really tells a story. Emotion does it for me. I love shooting candid personality photos—that’s one of my favorite things to shoot. It doesn’t matter what the subject is—it could be dirt bikes, skateboarding, National Geographic—if you look at it and you’re either awe struck by how beautiful it is or you can look into the eyes or emotion of that person and see the story.

What photographers have inspired you in your career?

I always liked Atiba Jefferson skate photos, and when I can, I try and bring more of a skateboarding eye to motocross. In the motocross world, growing up I always saw Simon Cudby’s photos and thought he was the guy. And ever since I’ve known him, he has always killed it. He always gets the shot, and there is something to be said for that. It’s almost insane (laughs). Artistically, I love Garth Milan’s stuff. That guy is a legend as far as lighting and things like that go. Those guys stand out to me.

What is your ultimate goal as a photographer?

My main goal is to inspire people. I feel any photographer that’s passionate about it, wants people to look at what they do and get what they’re going for. As a photographer, you see something and you get to show people what you see through your camera. Inspiration is probably the biggest thing. It’s crazy to think that I do it for a living. And my goal is to use my passion and make a solid career out of it. Obvious goals would be magazine covers, but I think having the respect of people you work with—and other photographers—is huge. And I think in some ways, I’ve achieved that goal.

By Brendan Lutes

Check out more of his work at www.mikeemeryphoto.com