MM: I’ve always worked with zeroing in on [subjects]. I like the idea that there’s ambiguity and paradox. I’m not interested in narrative, but any kind of natural human thing makes it look more interesting to me. So, for example, I don’t find baldies that interesting, as it’s just skin, whereas pubic hair is another texture. As an artist it gives you more to work with. But I wouldn’t know how to do what you do, shooting with natural light… I really am a tabletop photographer, except I happen to use humans!
SK: So are all your photos shot in studios then?
MM: Oh, everything! And I’ve never gone further than five inches away from the subject. No, wait, I have. I did once, with Pamela Anderson.
SK: How was that?
MM: So fun. She let me cut her bangs, and take all her make-up off, so you could see her freckles, and I put her on the cover of [Francis Ford Coppola’s] magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. Nobody recognised her!
SK: Because she was natural! What are you working on now?
MM: The Steam series. It’s hard to describe, but I just shot all these people behind steam. We’re making a unique artist’s edition of PLUSH, all behind steam. They look like photos, but actually it’s about 20 layers of Photoshop. You shoot on film, right? How long do you wait to develop it?
SK: Well, I take a bunch of photos every day, and I have a bag where I throw in my film as I’m shooting. Then I get it developed in batches, 50 rolls at once, every three or four months.
MM: You can actually wait that long? I always used to develop mine at 15 rolls, couldn’t wait to see them!
SK: It’s kind of an old habit, I guess. I used to be homeless — couch surfing and stuff — so I didn’t have the money to go and get everything developed straight away. I would wait months to get anything developed. I’m not as broke as I used to be, so I could develop them earlier, but I like the process of waiting, as you forget what you’ve shot.
MM: I used to have moments, all the time actually, where I’d be so in the zone during shooting that I wouldn’t remember taking certain pictures at all. I wouldn’t even remember the shot when I’d developed the roll and saw the image. I love film for that. With digital, you’re checking them all the time. So I’m not going to stop using film.
SK: But now you’re mostly taking digital photos, and then turning them into paintings.
MM: Yes. I’m always shooting for paintings. I love to shoot; for me it’s like drawing. And the beauty of Photoshop is that we’ve become really good at it, so we’ve developed our own techniques. We combine negatives to make whole new images. It’s almost like now you can take a photo and really push it.
SK: I agree, with digital photography I feel like you have to kind of develop your own style, combining your own ingredients into whatever you’re making, however you do it — only you know. You kind of trademark it that way.
MM: Well, it’s your vision. You make a picture of your vision.