Interview by Emily Milam

Mike is a Junior concentrating in History.  This fall he took Sharon Harper’s Intro to Photography.

Emily Milam: What is the title and connecting theme of your project?

Mike Polino: I don’t have a title yet, but the theme revolves around old bags that I have collected in various ways. One is my mom’s bag from college and one is a very old bag that my grandpa used to keep his camera in. Using these photos is an opportunity to envision where the bags have been in their history.

EM: How did you come up with this project?

MP: I bought the briefcase, the one bag that was not part of my family a couple of weeks ago. It looked so weathered that I kept imagining who the previous owner was. Again, the small bag belonged to my grandfather and a lot of the photos I have taken recently have dealt with war. He was kidnapped in Northern Italy when he was 15, and was forced into the army, where his job was to drive trucks in Africa. I just imagine the incredible things that he had seen, and wanted to recreate some of these settings by stepping out of normal Harvard scenery.

EM: What kind of camera were you working with?

MP: Pentax 35mm with Kodak film.

EM: What frustrations and challenges did you experience throughout this project and semester? What have you learned?

MP: Get your film developed somewhere professional (not CVS). And, give yourself a long time to plan shoots. For this project, I would actually draw sketches before going to take the photo.

EM: How and why did you become interested in photography? What is your past experience?

MP: I have always liked representing things for myself. I’m not very good at drawing but I’ve always liked it. Photography seems like the natural next step – I’m not looking to capture things as they really are, but to make stuff up instead. Beforehand, I had only taken photographs on my own with a camera passed down by my mom, a Canon AE1 from the 70s.

EM: The second photo with the fire is especially compelling – what are you trying to say?

MP: I just wanted to put some kind of element of theatrics in at least one photograph – I wanted to have a real but fairly simple character situated in something theatrical to make the viewer think, “that’s a really simple character and something crazy is going on.” Very ordinary and expressionless people have something crazy and special going on.

EM: Do you hope to continue your interest in photography? If so, are there any potential project ideas you have in mind?

MP: Yes. I’ll probably take a large format or medium format camera class, whatever the next step is. The picture you see of my friend, Fil, near the water is in an area of South Boston that is completely out of use. It used to be a huge industrial center that we had to break into. If I had to do another project, it would be about the remnants of maritime history in Boston.

EM: Are there any particular photographers or other artists that inspire you?

MP: This may sound trite, but I think that Wes Anderson’s (movie director) eye for slightly fantastically imagery without leaving reality is something that everyone should pay more attention to.

EM: Which is your favorite image and why?

MP: The one of Fil by the drydock, because everything is extremely believable but you have never seen it before.


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