Michael Wilson

Pipe Coverer’s Ball

I am a photographer.

I stand in front of things and hope.

Looking for pictures.

Listening for voices.



This collection of pictures has come about by looking through roughly ten years of mostly overlooked and un-urgent pictures. Pictures untouched by the locust swarm of commerce obligation and timely concerns. Working on these pictures has been like putting my ear to some imagined wall, listening close for voices. Pictures have very small voices. The pictures are a harvest of disparate moments — passing glances and overheard voices. It is a harvest in hopes of piecing together a kind of story from these otherwise unrelated bits, a story that gives voice to that which is beyond suspicion yet so resistant to words… a rope of pajamas and blankets to climb out of a window with.

Resident and luminous.

Luminous and waning.

Many of these pictures are not about what they are of. What I’m hoping for in these pictures is a kind of mirror — make-shift and dull, perhaps, but owning that peculiar property of a mirror in reflecting back accurately that which lies in front of it. In this case, something of that which is resident and luminous in the world, but beyond that, something of the internal, invisible and intangible which drew me to stand still in the first place.

This is probably enough to say for now. I hope so.

Anyway, talking about pictures is like thinking about praying.




Michael Wilson was born in 1959 and is a life-long resident of Cincinnati residing in Price Hill. He developed his interest in photography while attending Northern Kentucky University where he earned a bachelor of fine arts in 1981. At that time he had no plan to be doing photography for a living. In fact, he had no plan at all. He worked as a janitor, a dishwasher, a laborer, a darkroom technician and eventually as a photographer’s assistant. With not much of a clue but little to lose and a wife not afraid, he quit his real job in 1987 to go freelance as a photographer.

His work has been featured in exhibitions at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston Gallery as well as in numerous exhibitions in other local venues. Wilson’s photographs have been exhibited regionally at the J.B. Speed Museum (Louisville, Ky.), 930 Gallery (Louisville, Ky.); Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art (Cleveland, Ohio). His work is represented in the Cincinnati corporate collections of E.W. Scripps; PNC Bank; Frost & Jacobs; Deloitte & Touche; and Duke Energy. He is also represented in the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the J.B. Speed Museum.

His work in the music industry is the most recognizable face of his work. Among the artists that Michael has photographed are: Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, Waylon Jennings, Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, Bill Frisell, David Byrne, Philip Glass, Dawn Upshaw, and Dr. John and Doc Watson. Clients include Nonesuch Records, Warner Bros. Records, Sony Music, Capitol Records, Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Putnam, Mother Jones Magazine, Uncut Magazine and Pentagram Design.


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Michael Wilson


8 thoughts on “Michael Wilson – Pipe Coverer’s Ball”

  1. I like some of your music work. This stuff I dont get; other than the fact that most of us, I think, shoot these little random frames of things, just because they are there and we are there and we have a camera with some film in and ‘fuck it!’ lets see what it looks like as a frame, or whatever.
    And most of them look like these of course. One or two on about any given roll give or take. Collecting them is a neat idea too, but it being a neat idea dont always make it a compelling set of images.
    Nice words though. They are bang on the money about motive.

  2. Michael, with these images you have woven a tapestry of life, quiet, unassuming, gentle-spirited, true. I found the captions distracting. Idon not need, nor do I want to know the where, when, or what of these fragments of memory. Let them flow through my eyes into my mind with no impediment of facts. To me, it is a meditation, an exercise in letting go and simply BEing with life.

    I have heard you say that you have no “book” of coherent images. I beg to differ. This is book I would love to own. Maybe with 20 or so more images, but nothing to destroy the flow. It is beautiful as is.

  3. Absolutely love….

    and since my once long-winded songs have been settled here, I’ll keep it at that:

    the pics and the series, songs sifting through the back of the throat. just love it.

    “Outside in the barnlot he looked up and the pale moon was directly over him and all-encompassing. It appeared to be lowering itself onto the earth and he could make out mountains and ranges of hills and hollows and dark shadowed areas of mystery he judged to be timber and he wondered what manner of beast thrived there and what their lives were like and the need to be there twisted in his heart like an old pain that will not dissipate.”

    ― William Gay, Twilight

  4. Michael

    “Many of these pictures are not about what they are of.”

    Yup, get it, and agree with Patricia.

    This is very personal stuff. Your experience will not be the same as mine, but these are the kinds of photos that help us plumb the depths of our own lives. I relate. Some of these photos resonate with me, others not so much, but ain’t that great.
    Love your portraits on your site. Congratulations for being here.

  5. I think that John has it with “lets see what it looks like as a frame, or whatever” as I was reminded, as I viewed the essay, of Gary Winogrand’s quote of “I take photographs to see what things look like as photographs” or something like that. The best of this essay fulfils this aim of giving a simple object a deeper meaning by transforming it into black and white photograph. Even viewed on a screen I can imagine what they would look like as deep, rich, silver halide prints. The words are just right too.

    Thanks, Michael.


  6. to me, these are more than “what would it look like” as a photograph.

    successful, succinct formal compositions.

    like the work on your website, too. not clear is how you are making a living, as “recent work” seems to be from 2007-2010.

    congrats for Burning it up.

  7. There’s not much to say here, I think the photographer has summed it up pretty well with his artist statement. I like these images, the whole style and approach and I’ve always felt this kind of photography slows you down and manages to help you see gems in the most unlikely of places. I get the feeling that maybe Keith Carter is a strong influence.

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