Name: Michael Christopher Brown // Age: 37
Based in: NYC
Currently in: The Congo
Languages: A little Spanish, French, Chinese (used to be basic but now its worse than bad). Tidbits of Arabic.
Fun fact: Sometimes when I’m home in NYC I sleep in my studio instead of my apartment. Don’t ask me why, helps creativity and to keep me loose sometimes
“The key for me is to be ‘living’ wherever I’m at.”
Michael Christopher Brown is a photographer and filmmaker raised in the Skagit Valley, a farming community in Washington State. His recent work-in-progress explores the electronica music and youth scene in Havana, Cuba, and the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In China (2009/2010) he put together a series of works from road and train trips, while Libyan Sugar (2011) explored ethical distance and the iconography of warfare while using a phone camera. A contributing photographer at publications such as National Geographic Magazine and The New York Times Magazine, he was a subject of the 2012 HBO documentary Witness: Libya. His photographs were exhibited at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Instituto Cervantes (New York), The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), the Annenberg Space for Photography and the Brooklyn Museum. Libyan Sugar book was released in 2016 by Twin Palms Publishers, a film and a mixed media installation will complete the project. He is represented by Magnum Photos.
How do you deal with travel through war zones?
I don’t see it as traveling, I see it as living. I live in those places more than I photograph them. I connect with people, take in the landscape and find things to identify with. The key for me is to be ‘living’ wherever I’m at. I have to connect personally otherwise there is no emotional connection, which is necessary.
Do you ever wish you had a more normal life?
All the time. I come back to NYC and my friends are either married or getting married, having children, baby dates. I want those too at some point. The city is different now that I’m getting older. Often recently I think it may be time to move back home to the valley and buy a big barn and step it up a bit work wise, we’ll see. I’m entering “mid-career” but feel I’m just getting started.
How do you deal with burn out?
Sleep. Sleep is often the magical solution. As I get older I feel the impact more but with more experience I’ve also learned to appreciate and remember more that is beneficial to what I’m doing. I used to bounce around the globe more often but now I don’t take as many jobs and try and focus on areas of most interest.
Where do you travel?
I’ve been to a number of countries but, perhaps more importantly, have spent extended periods of time in Congo (DRC), Libya, Cuba and China. I like to spend long periods of time in places I’m drawn to.
Thoughts on Humanity?
We are basically all the same. Our differences are what make us each beautiful in our own ways, but though your skin and your house may be different you are my brother nonetheless.
Why do you care so much?
I care about my life, about the experience of being alive, that’s the first step. What I do is fulfilling, from that I fall into and embrace what the world
Michaels Cover Photo for Nat Geo, France
I read the New York Times to stay up to date on the world. Sometimes I check Drudge Report for random news. Other than that I tend not to spend too much time online. Facebook to get info from certain contacts on certain places.
Equipment of course. But also notebooks, a variety of clothing, emergen-c packets, coffee and face wash. Something about having a clean face, I don’t know.
I use Patagonia gear and modify it with camera pads inside. I bring a messenger bag, a small backpack and a big travel duffel that I check in.
“You don’t need as much as you think you might.“
Throughout your travels, how have you come to feel about the world?
Only hopeful. It’s a bit of a side note, but I had an experience last year in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, with thousands of people and that experience was incredibly uplifting and life affirming. How we can be in a place like that with nothing but water and food and achieve something incredible together, it’s the strength of the human spirit. Those experiences I now see as necessary to continue with energy for the type of projects I pursue.
” I would suggest that instead of saving the world, do whatever it is that makes you most excited about life, what it is that fulfills you. What you love. All good things follow from there and you’ll be guided if you listen.”