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Photo Finds – June 4, 2012: Michael Cali

Photographers
Mike Cali Self Portrait in Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Mike Cali Self Portrait in Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Welcome to Photo Finds, a feature where we point you to some of the best photography around the web.

When I picked wedding and portrait photographer Michael Cali as the person I wanted to talk about in today’s Photo Finds feature, I didn’t remember right away that he and last week’s Photo Finds photographer, Brad Moore, had something pretty significant in common. Both Brad and Michael have served as assistants to one of the most amazing photographers alive today, Joe McNally. Brad is his former assistant (he works for Scott Kelby now) and Mike is Joe’s current assistant.

I first came across Cali’s (apparently, everyone calls him that) work via Zack Arias’ blog, where he mentioned that Cali had been shooting with the Fuji X-Pro1 lately. So I followed the link to Cali’s blog and ended up spending a good hour there, just going through his images.

Scenes from Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Scenes from Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

So here’s something interesting to note about Michael Cali. The Fuji X-Pro1 notwithstanding, one cool thing to know about Michael is that he’s a film shooter.

Yep, that’s right. The assistant to Joe McNally, who shot National Geographic’s first digital cover, who was among the elite that got to work with Nikon’s D4 before its release, that photographer’s assistant is primarily a film shooter.

Scenes from Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Scenes from Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

The thing is, to peg him as a “film shooter” is to sell him grotesquely short.

Michael Cali is a photographer – and he’s a damned good one. Film happens to be his medium of choice, but if you look at his images with the X-Pro1, you’ll quickly see that his photography transcends a particular medium. He’s not a good shooter because he shoots film. He’s a good photographer because the man knows how to shoot.

At the Montague Bookmill. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

At the Montague Bookmill. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Cali’s images are warm, rich, and lush. Whether it’s with a Rolleiflex or a Hasselblad or an X-Pro1, he tends to create these ridiculously engrossing photographs that you can kind of sink into for a while. His series on the Montague Bookmill, for example, are downright immersive. You have this absurd desire to go find something similar in your neighborhood that you can lose yourself in when you see them.

That, I think, is what makes Cali’s images so cool. In practically every image, he manages to evoke emotion. Nostalgia, charm, and elegance are common themes throughout his photos, and you can’t help but go along for the ride with him.

At the Montague Bookmill. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

At the Montague Bookmill. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Cali’s work seems to be getting closer and closer to a definable visual style. I don’t mean that he’s becoming predictable, or that he’s repeating the same old, same old visual cues. Rather, the aforementioned themes – nostalgia, charm, elegance – are coming together to create a “sense” that is uniquely his.

Even more importantly, he’s consistent. Looking through his images, I never experienced a jarring moment where I came across a photo and went, “Um, what the heck? This looks like someone else shot it.”

That’s kind of important – more than I can say, really. It’s something I’m still struggling with, and it’s really something cool to see another photographer growing into.

Scenes from Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

Scenes from Dubai. Shot with the X-Pro1. Photo Courtesy and Copyright © Michael Cali.

If you haven’t already, check out Michael’s blog for some outstanding images. His portfolio can be found at michaelcali.com. You can also follow him on Twitter where he goes by @calipan.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at sohail.me as well as on 500px and Flickr.

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