Artist in Residence | Michael Elsden

“Last year I was honored by being selected as the first Artist-in-Residence at Rayko Photo Center. This was one of the most amazing and intense periods of developing and producing art that I have ever experienced. Working with Michael, Mia, and Ann allowed me to advance my ideas and evolve the skills necessary to achieve my project goals. This was an invaluable element as so often I’m confronted with the “I don’t know what it is I’m aiming for, but I’ll know it when I see it” type of thinking. In short, the collaboration with the Rayko staff helped me ‘see it’.

Michael Elsden
Michael Elsden

My recent direction finds me making portraits of men; more specifically, men with hairy faces. My goal isn’t so much to catalog facial hair, but instead it is to uncover some of what it is to be male, where the beard or moustache is used as a neutral labeling device for identifying and connecting the male of the species. Using the studio during the Artist-in-Residence program allowed me to pursue two very different ideas: ‘Pogonophora’ and ‘Men as Botanicals’. In both series I sought to make portraits that eschew sociotypical projections of ‘masculinity’ such as ‘courage’, ‘bravery’, and ‘assertiveness’, and instead reflect sensitivity, tenderness, and vulnerability.

I am currently working and living on the East Coast and developing skills in photogravure (a spin-off ideas from the residency). You can see more examples of my work from both series at www.elsdenimages.com.”