An Eye on Mikael Vojinovic

We all agree: When you look at Mikael's work, you see the importance of every single image. There is an urgency, a rawness and a composition that are becoming his signature.

By Kathia Cambron

One thing I love about his work is how Mikael takes you on a journey. He too is on a journey, exploring a theme from all perspectives. And when he has finished his exploration, he moves on to his next idea. He arrived in Montreal in 1998. That is when we met. He had a cool, bohemian look - still has it - with big, messy hair, a ubiquitous cigarette, some pieces of silver jewelry, an admiration for Charles Bukowski, and a camera. And all he wanted to do was photography. His appetite and passion for capturing an image was contagious, and this opened lots of doors for him. In no time, he had met everyone in town and had assembled a team of the best talent and was ready to shoot. He already had a great portfolio. I remember a series in particular featuring a man with a prosthetic metal arm and his daughter, Mikael’s girlfriend at the time.

Mikael, you like trash culture. What speaks to you in this aesthetic; what do you like about it?

It relates to my life at all points. Works that have elements of trash culture often end up being heralded for taking risks, pushing boundaries. And I was willing to take those risks and I’ve never stopped pushing limits.

What can you tell us about your stay in Montreal? What was particular about your work during this time?

I was arriving from France where I had been a portrait photographer for years, and I learned about fashion in Montreal. Having worked with people like Olivier Miotto, for example, still motivates me to this day. I was shooting almost every day on film sets - thousands of rolls during those  three  years - but I lost all of them while leaving for New York. All my archives were ruined when my storage basement was flooded. Starting all over was difficult, after losing all the great work I had created with my favourite collaborators. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to capture my imaginary life through my lens and with my team.

Passionate about photography and his girlfriend at the time, Mikael decided to make the move to New York City. A great place to be for a photographer because all the best models work there and the opportunities are bigger. On the other hand, when things don’t go your way, NYC can be pretty tough. In rough times, Mikael slept in the subway, where he once woke up with his rear jeans pocket missing and all his legal papers with it. He managed to survive in the urban jungle for over seven years, doing various types of shoots: ad campaigns, tests for models, and plenty of creatives. It was the craziest adventure.

How important was your work during your NYC days?

New York has given me the opportunity to meet and work with great talents, like Doutzen Kroes. When she first arrived in New York, I was one of the first to shoot her book for her, and she was still underage at the time. I don’t remember all the models I’ve worked with, but I do recall Doutzen and I were arrested by the police for trespassing on private property. We were supposed to go to court together but the city of New York simply threw out our case a month before the ruling and I’ve never seen Doutzen again since. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with many great models who are still travelling the world doing great work today: Janelle Fishman, Dorith Mous, JessiM’Bengue, to name but a few. I met Benoit Lagarde, founder of Splash-light Studios; David Cotteblanche, a great hair stylist and owner of the Red Market Salon... Those people were as inspiring to me as the city itself was. I created some of my best work with them. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to achieve. I just wanted to do things that I could turn to for inspiration in the future.

What did you like most about NYC?

I liked everything about New York. Every single aspect of it. Even through the rough times, I had this amazing feeling that if you keep knocking hard enough at a door, it will eventually open for you. I suppose I was feeling like a real New Yorker at the time. But it’s the people I met there that I loved the most.  Incredibly talented and full of energy. I arrived there just after 9/11, and I found a city that was ready to rebuild itself and get back to the top. And I was willing to do my part by contributing beauty and creativity, which are the tools at my disposal and that I use in my art. It is a city where you need to push yourself beyond the limits in order to survive. I was inspired by everything that surrounded me. New York has amazing street art, an amazing skyline, and amazing parties!

His return to Paris has been another adventure. Mikael has had an exhibition of his work and recently published a book. And now, you can stroll down the street with a piece of his story and universe, thanks to his new T-shirt line, available atvojinovicparis.com.

It’s a real pleasure to celebrate Mikael Vojinovic’s art work.