Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Photographers of Second Life I – Michael Romani

You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams

Welcome to a new series in my blog!

In this ongoing series, I will meet the photographers of Second Life (SL) and discuss their lives and work. 

Since first rezzing inworld several years ago, I’ve noticed that there are experienced professional photographers from Real Life (RL) working in SL as well as many talented amateurs.  Their body of work is quite large, diverse, and impressive. 

This series will call them out individually and introduce them hopefully to a wider audience. I’ll talk about their backgrounds, their influences, and naturally their work! 

My first subject is Michael Romani, an old SL friend of mine whom I actually met at his poetry reading somewhere back in the mists of virtual time.  Michael is a photographer in RL among other things and has recently passed the 14,000 pictures mark on flickr with his work. 

Let’s meet Michael!

For this story, I met Michael and wife and partner in SL, Ally Romani, at their home
next to his gallery inworld. 

Michael goes by Michael Romani inworld which he feels is an extension of his RL persona where he is known as Michael but with similar interests.

He had a collection of 14,000 plus photographs in RL, mostly nature, buildings, landscapes, and surfing.  Unfortunately, all of these came to be destroyed.

So, when he was pulled into SL, he was brought here and given an avi that looks like a younger version of him and his intention was to play live music.  He was going to not play so much the progressive hard rock that he played in RL but more like a beachy acoustic thing comparable to Jack Johnson. 

Michael was a serious musician in RL, playing multiple instruments and had been in a wide range of bands since he was eleven years old.

So, Michael was/is a musician, photographer, poet, and a surfer in RL he hastens to add. 

Michael says some people come inworld to escape reality.  He came to be a musician because so many friends wanted him to do that.  It sounded fun to him

However, a few weeks into getting here, Michael became very ill.  Spending eight days in an ICU and nearly dying.  Long story short, despite recovering, he could no longer sing as he once did. Instead, Michael became someone who photographs SL and writes passable poetry.  (His words not mine, I actually like Michael’s poetry!) 

Michael’s reason for coming to SL in the first place is one of the more interesting stories I’ve heard since I started blogging.  (Trust me, I’ve heard a lot!) 

Seems Michael was in a pirate game, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online.  He led two guilds there.  While doing that he realized that many of those in these guilds, about one thousand people were also part of SL.  Disney's game was ending and his fellow guild members wanted him to come inworld and perform live music.

The rest is history now!

I next ask Michael about the challenges of being a photographer in SL.

He replies that there are several. 

The first challenge was realizing that he had no camera.  Michael had to learn how does the computer camera work in the SL environment.

The next challenge was learning about windlights and how they can blend to make for more interesting photographic compositions.

His third challenge was learning that there are ways to make shadows and so on to create a more natural feel in this artificial world we are in.

Ally adds that Michael doesn't photoshop his work. 

Michael agrees and adds that all of his photos are what he sees here inworld. But, he will tweak the lighting and so on for nuances. 

He emphasizes that none of his work is photoshopped as many inworld photographers apparently do. 

I ask Michael what are the themes of his work?

He replies that he’s himself in every world that he’s in adding that if one looks at the photos in his flickr account, one'll see that he has photographed a great deal of SL, a wide range.  Michael prefers to look for the beautiful, noble, good things and play with their windlights. 

He says that playing with windlights is perhaps his main theme, and after that nature.

I ask if it's suitable subjects with a strong technical challenge for him in his work inworld?  Michael answers that would be a fair description. 

He says that what he really loves is when a RL photographer tells him that many of his photographs look as though they are in  the real world. 

Michael adds that for the last year there has been one main recurring theme and that’s been his wife inworld, Ally.  (Who blushes at her mention.)

Ally protests kiddingly that Michael doesn’t pose her, he just shoots! 

Michael explains that he doesn’t like to have people pose either inworld or in RL.  He likes his photography to be as candid as it can be. 

My next question is always a tough one for creative types, which of his works is his favorite?

Michael says that’s like asking which of his children he loves best!  (Told you it was a tough one!)

Michael turns the question on me and says that if he had to limit it to which photographs he loves best he’d select pictures done by Ansel Adams. He particularly likes how he worked in black and white.  Turns out, Michael actually had the opportunity to meet Ansel while working on an environmental campaign in California. 

I ask about any projects that Michael currently has underway inworld.

He replies that presently he is working more in the poetry world now that he’s reached his goal of 14,000 photos inworld.   At the moment, he’s concentrating on the photos SL14 Birthday Bash. (Second Life’s fourteenth anniversary celebration inworld.)

Michael will also do multiple series based on visiting different sims and doing photos that either go with a story or poetry line.  For example, he’s doing a series in poetry based on the old The Twilight Zone series.  He will take the photos that people like most and write a short poem for each so that they can be on the photograph.  Michael may do a couple haikus or things like that. 

My final question is about whether RL influences SL for him or vice versa?

Michael thinks for a moment and replies that RL influences SL and SL influences RL.  He finds that especially so when it comes to his writing, but true is also about photography and how he sees things.  For example, when he photographed a lot in RL he would not filter or anything like that.  He wanted what the world would see was what he saw then himself. 

At this point, our interview ends and we walk over to the nearby gallery where Michael has some of his work on display.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors will notice a statue of woman on horseback.  This a
memorial to Michael’s RL sister who passed away after a nine year battle with breast cancer. 

The gallery is two floors with a small area for receptions on the second.  Walking out the back door on the ground floor reveals a waterfront path with spectacular views.

At this point, I thank Michael for his time and candor, and take my leave.

What draws me to Michael’s photographs, besides the depth and breadth they reveal of SL, is how they capture the ordinary places and events inworld and some how make them feel special. 

I’m not much of a photographer. (Significant Other nods in violent agreement.)  Just look at my own crude efforts accompanying this blog and you’ll see what I mean.

But, I do know great photographs when I see them and that’s what I see when I look at Michael’s work.

Michael is a prolific and talented photographer who is documenting the story of SL.  Someday, all we may have left of this world we share, will be the efforts of photographers like him.  He contributes to the cultural and social life of SL as few do. 

Check out his work!

Fortunately for us, Michael’s work can be found in many places.

There’s his inworld gallery (Only the gallery, the house is off limits!), his flickr page, and his blog. 

Also, he does poetry readings Mondays at 5:00PM SLT at this location. 

Now, you may wonder why I haven’t plastered Michael’s photographs all over this story.  After all, he did give me permission!  The truth is there are so many wonderful
pictures that I just couldn’t do his corpus of work justice.  But, I have included one which is my favorite for your enjoyment.

Which one of Michael’s photographs is your favorite?

I’d like to thank Michael for allowing me into his home and life to meet him and Ally, and taking the time to answer my questions and to share his life with us!  

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

More pictures from my interview with Michael can be found on this flickr page.

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!

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