Today we chat with our in-house photographer Michael Warnock, the amazing talent behind the (also amazing) photography seen on Milligram. Alongside photography, Michael is currently studying for his Master of Fine Arts and a parent to his seven-year old son who has shown an emerging talent in painting.
As part of our Milligram Dads series, we learn more about Michael's journey into photography, post-grad, juggling his studies, work and fatherhood and how he cultivates creative and artistic sensibilities in his son.
Michael! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. I think a great way to start is to tell me a little about your little boy!
My son is seven. He’s insightful, boisterous and, quite often, unassumingly eccentric. He once played soccer with his friends. He loves Star Wars and Lego and, obviously, Star Wars Lego.
You are both the in-house photographer and currently doing post-grad. How did you get into photography and what compelled you to continue your studies? Did you have any concerns about pursuing post-grad as a working parent?
I started photography in a pre-digital era when a darkroom was compulsory to create an image. I fell in love with the darkroom. It was a dark and quiet place of magic; a refuge from school and bullies. I didn’t have any concerns starting a post-grad. In retrospect, I probably should have thought more about it because it’s difficult to balance with all the other life duties. I’m only studying part-time and, to be honest, since the second lockdown I’ve had to defer. But there’s no hurry. I’m actually not sure one single thing compelled me to study, many small things perhaps. I used to teach, so there was the idea of developing that career, but I’m over that now. Maybe I’m just trying to capture the sense of freedom I felt when I first went to uni. It was like a theme park of ideas.
"He sees me taking photos and naturally wants to take his own. I let him do it with my heavy and expensive camera, which is why I look so worried in every photo he takes of me."
Are there any challenges to juggling parenting, work and study (whilst having time for yourself?) How do you do it?
I think being a parent is really challenging at the best of times. Children are complex. My family have created special time-slots, some for study and some for personal time. I’ve found, for me, if I get a bit of space to think or do something for myself, I’m able to be a more generous father. The quality of attention is better.
As a parent who is creative and art-inclined, how does this influence your parenting?
For me, creativity is how you do something, not what you do (photography is the best example of this). I think it has a lot do problem-solving and being able to make connections between things that may not seem obvious, yet when made it's as though a pleasure button in the brain has been hit. So I try to allow my son’s thoughts and drawings to naturally construct these connections — that come naturally in a child’s brain — by simply not judging his free-associating mind. Perhaps, sometimes, I subtly encourage absurdity. It’s the opposite of school really.
How is your son with a camera? Has he picked up an early taste for photography? Or any other creative disciplines?
He sees me taking photos and naturally wants to take his own. I let him do it with my heavy and expensive camera, which is why I look so worried in every photo he takes of me. We spontaneously began to draw and paint together. It’s been amazing, especially because he initially felt unconfident with drawing. I love it because it’s not contrived and he does it without me having to ask (or coerce) him.
"Here is a painting Sid did recently. He made me put it on a black background in Photoshop, so I did it."
What values are you hoping to raise your child with?
I hope he can achieve his aspirations and desires in life without harming other beings and the environment in the process.
Lastly, how do you hope to celebrate father’s day this year?
A slow and uneventful morning, no chores, and a midday nap. Oh, a well considered and useful present is always appreciated. The rest of the day can continue as normal.
To read more from our Milligram Dad series, check out:
Parenting Beyond the Binary with Ginger, where we explore Ginger Valentine's experiences with non-binary parenting, and raising their 4-year old Bug with empathy.
A First-Time Dad in the Time of Corona, here we chat with Jack - Studio Milligram's product designer, on his first 11 weeks of (quarantined) fatherhood and his first born daughter Florence.