Micaela McLucas: Photographic Wanderlust

The Notebook | 28th May 2018

The celebrated young photgrapher on overcoming tragedy, living for the moment and shooting life on the road

Micaela McLucas is a photographer and global nomad who is increasingly celebrated for her diary-esque photographic provocations, which capture her passion for adventure and cleverly play upon and subvert the selfie culture. Originally hailing from Buenos Aries, she moved to Los Angeles at a young age to follow a passion for painting, but hit the road after the sudden passing of her father–and she finds herself now living and working in London, via New York. That’s not to say her wanderlust has come to an end, when she is not shooting or working for the internationally renowned photographer Rankin, she is invariably shooting in some far flung corner of the globe or on a plane getting there. Here, the Mortimer House member tells The Notebook why tragedy can be a powerful catalyst for change and why social media might just be sounding the death knell of radical free expression.

Where does your wanderlust stem from?
My childhood was spent in the clouds–both in daydreams, and quite literally spending a good part of it staring out the window of a plane. My parents met in the mountains of Argentina, my mother’s native land, where my bohemian father convinced her, after just one month of meeting, to leave her home and come back with him to Los Angeles. Then came me. I often travelled back and forth between the two countries, and that boredom and restlessness of constantly being on a plane and out of place stuck with me, and feeds my hunger to make good work and be a relevant human.

Why is artistic expression of your life so important to you?
My father passed away very suddenly of cancer when I was 21. At the time, I was studying painting–up until then I thought the world was a fuzzy place where that seemed like a viable career. Soon after that happened my life–needless to say–flipped upside-down. I quit my studies and moved to New York to learn what it took to really become an artist. I didn’t know anyone there and I had no money, but I’d already experienced far worse, so, what did I have to lose? To cope with my own disillusionment, I would go get lost and take hundreds of photos a day of anything and everything. I had found a medium where I could reference and use my background in painting, and my breakdown as an artist, and make something interesting out of it. I no longer knew what I was doing, and it was beautiful.

What role do you think art and photography has to play in terms of identifying subculture?
We need counter-culture, otherwise everyone listens to Taylor Swift and shops at ASOS. I think now, though, there is a problem with how universally we can access all kinds of music and fashion, because it all becomes so watered down. The way that music and fashion and art used to build through subcultures is now being taken over by video games and social media. The next generation is full of distracted youth. I mean, of course, art and photography definitely have a huge role in identifying what is going on in subcultures before anyone else catches on, but if they don’t exist anymore then what is there to identify?

If you had one key piece of advice for young aspiring photographers, what would it be?
Be humble, but be willing to fight for your place. And obviously shoot, shoot, shoot… I know so many people trying to make it and doing one shoot every two months because they want to shoot it on medium format even though they can’t afford it. Find a workflow and a way to pay for what you need to make your work and charge on. Obviously your dreams need to be malleable, but that’s what you learn in the process. I’ve never met anyone really successful in the creative world that half-assed their career–successful people devour their work, and that’s the only way to do it, in my opinion.

Interview: John-Paul Pryor