These People Are A-OK: Opal Michel

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Opal Michel has engaged in a decade long courtship with an art medium who has finally “put a ring on it”. Drawn to Opal like a farmer to a potluck, I am so excited that her skills are for sale! A Photographer, hairdresser, singer/songwriter, doula, a mother of two and a devoted wife: this Vancouver native set out on an adventure and has found her soul path, located in Chase, BC. Fascinated by light, human subjects, concepts of beauty, and defining life moments, Opal knows how to physically soothe a situation, hands on or blending in like a shadow, she has a comforting presence who naturally creates “soft places to land”.

Opal Michel Photography is your latest HOT TIP from me, Mrs. Fagervik, your CREATIVE MAVEN. Hire Opal to capture your life’s moments, and then let her loose and receive a one of a kind hand made memory. Opal Michel LIVES WITH MOXY.

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If photography were your boyfriend, what type of relationship would you have? How long have you been together? How did you meet? Give me the 411
It would probably be like an unrequited love story. Where things never really got of the ground, and then you met one day and it was kismet. And is now my life partner. It’s probably my gay life partner, because I feel like photography is a woman, not a man. It‘s very feminine work for me. My husband has competition; competition that he doesn’t mind.

You are the definition of a Creative Entrepreneur. What does that title mean to you?
That’s a really good question because I have been going through so much emotion about what it means to be a creative entrepreneur because it’s such a vulnerable position to be in. Asking for money for your vision and for the way you see the World: big and scary. It’s also really exciting. It feels really really right and good. And I love that I have complete control over everything. The thing about photography and art in general is that there are no rules. I can do whatever the heck I want. There are a lot of people saying that there should be rules, the Internet is full of them, bossy people telling me what to do. I am shutting them all out. I’m going to do what I want to do with it.

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Your photographs have a distinct sensibility. Can you walk me through your process when setting up a shot?
I consider all of the technical stuff second. First I make a decision that something is beautiful or worth capturing. Then I tap into that feeling of the moment. Then I take into consideration all of the camera settings, and the light quality, and composition. I always have a vision of what the final product will look like so that when I take it into post processing I know what I want from it. It’s so exciting when it works out. It’s a bunch of steps, not just a snapshot with a general intention. I always envision artistically which I want to achieve.

Do you prefer digital or analog photography?
Digital. (Opal answered right away). For sure. I can develop film in a darkroom and I did that in high school, and I wanted to love it because all of my friends loved it, and it seemed to be the cool thing to latch onto artistically at the time in the 90s, but I hated it. I always wanted someone else to make things happen for me. I love computers and I love doing things while sitting down in a chair.

How does technology come into play? You are clearly comfortable on a computer and advertise Creative photo shoot options for your customers, what happens for you creatively once you input your images into the computer?

I don’t want to leave. I can spend hours and hours and hours editing and doing fun creative stuff, pushing my own boundaries, learning. There’s so much to learn about digital photography and what you can do to manipulate the images gets me very excited. I guess you could say that my wife and I have a really good sex life. Yea, it’s just fun.

I have a hunch that you’re creative in many aspects of your life? Can you speak to your relationship with creativity?
I am a singer and I like to pretend to paint. And I love colour and try to inject it into every aspect of our life with my kids and our home. I feel really attracted to other creative people. I’ve never referred to myself as an artist. Growing up it was considered the A word, no one was allowed to call me that, especially my mother. When I was in the fourth grade my mom would say “oh you’re such a little artist Opal”, and I said “no! don’t call me an artist, artists suffer”. I wanted money and I didn’t know how to achieve that in art, until I went to hair school and so much creativity came out of me through that, and then I started to embrace being an artist. Now I’m proud of it. Now I’m proud to say that I’m a stay at home artist.

Where did you grow up? What brought you to Chase BC?
I grew up in East Vancouver, and my first time living outside of Vancouver was moving here to the Adams Lake Reserve in Chase. We moved for our son, so that he could go to Shuswap emersion Elementary School to learn his language. I didn’t know anybody here. No friends, no family, just sort of took a leap of faith. I really love my husband, and I trust him, and it was extremely important for his life and family and his spirit to be here on his land, so I did it for him. I’m so glad I did.

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If you were to trace your relationship with the arts throughout your life, how would it weave its way to this point, the Premiere of your official title as businesswoman?
I would say my mother used to teach me when I was younger that resistance comes before glory, and it was just a huge path of resistance and not wanting to be a professional or a business woman in an artistic field, from complete fear of failure and not having the skills to succeed. That really shifted for me about a year ago when regular work was just crippling my soul. Minimum wage was crippling my soul and doing nothing was crippling my soul. I decided to take my passion to the next level, and try to provide for my family. I was honest to goodness like 5 minutes away from applying for a job at the bank, because that seemed like the best option, and then I just realized that it really was not the best option at all.

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To be present and counted upon during people’s delicate life moments is a heavy agreement. What is it like to arrive with a camera and its lenses? What goes through your mind before hand and then during? How do you feel after?
I really love people so much and I have a natural tendency to want to be in peoples lives and witness their special moments all of the time, for everything: love, birth, any sort of celebration. Life growth, I love witnessing that. It’s a really natural leap, and people request that I have my camera, so that helps. It makes people so uncomfortable to interject photo documentation during vulnerable times, and that’s something that I take really seriously, to try to make people feel really truly comfortable. When working with little children, I like to have them hold the camera and take a picture, show them the buttons and make them play. I like to talk to people about what they’re feeling in the moment, and let them know that I can find these moments and I really do find them beautiful, I want them to know how much I really do LOVE these little details of real life. It’s amazing how many people are some of the most glowing, vibrant, physically beautiful people that you’ve ever seen, and all they can think about is that the pimple on their chin is so ugly and they’re so worried about how they’re going to look in that photo… it makes me want to cry. I can just take that pimple away!

Do you meet with your clients ahead of time, or do you nurture your relationship on site?
Both. Say for birth, I would absolutely meet the client ahead of time, stay in touch, get to know them. Weddings of course, sometimes I will just show up and meet them, but I wont bring the camera out until we’ve established a connection, just to help people feel comfortable. If they’re not, I wont take photos. I wont take a photo if someone doesn’t want their photo taken. I’m a doula as well, and doulas are very hands on, you actually physically comfort women through their pain and birth transition, and that’s always something that comes really naturally to me, to reach out and touch people. That’s something that we learned with hairdressing, and it’s very rare. Within a few moments you’ve met someone, and then you have your hands on their head right away. You’re an alien species who reaches out and puts their hands on their head and feels their skull. Doula is like that as well. You put your hands on a woman’s hips and you soothe her pain. A sisterhood connection with women. I love to take photos of women.

What type of client would make your pulse pound? Who is your dream subject?
I think my dream subjects are anybody who’s willing to take their clothes off, who normally would never take their clothes off. I really really love humans. One of my interests is photographing nudes, and especially women or men who are not your social typical norm or idea of picture perfect beauty, but really really should be the ideal of beauty.

How does it feel to own your own business?
Exhilarating. I really like attention. Now I get to plaster my name everywhere and talk about myself more than usual, so that’s pretty great. I’m not really very shy. I know how to direct people now. Everyone is expecting you to pose them and move them around. Don’t have any problem public speaking or raising my voice to direct a crowd. I also know how to slink into the background if I need too.

What makes OM unique?
I really want to capture people in their natural form and not sugar coat scenarios and families and appearances. So, if I’m used to seeing someone in a dirty shirt and jeans, and they show up in a crisp white ironed shirt and combed hair, that would not be what I want to capture. I’m interested in people as they are, in their lives, in their settings, in their natural environments. I also like to take creative photos that are not realistic at all. It’s important to me too, to do different things and not be rigid in my ideas and style. I like to be flexible.

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Working with an art medium, photography, in this commercial output can be a sticky space for many artists. How do you negotiate your ‘art’ while working for a client?
I want to make sure that my clients have seen what I’ve already done and understand my capabilities and price points, and that they know what they’re getting into. I find that people who love what I do really love what I do, and they want to work with me just based on my portfolio. I had a person recently who wanted to work with me before she saw my photos, and that felt nice: she could tell what I do without meeting me.

1040310_10151728582100336_394198792_oWhat is your vision for OM?

I really want to travel and eventually work in editorial photography and my BIG life goal would be to be working entirely on creative projects and to be published in a major publication. Fashion photography. Avante garde stuff is the direction that I’d like to head in. Yes, I’d like to work in New York city and be a very special person.

What does the word freedom mean to you?
I think that freedom for me is living without fear. Following your heart and your soul path.

Opal Michel Photography
(250) 434-4422
Chase BC
Find her on Facebook
opal@opalmichel.com


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