Q&A: Max Mikulecky — Fugue State


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Trying to work hard, be kind, and be open. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? Trump’s presidency, “influencers”, the class divide. Are you aware of any conspiracies? The walrus was Paul. What is it that interests you about photography?
Hmm, where to start? I love that the medium grants you access into the spaces and lives of other people. Photographing temporarily allows you to experience those lives in some way too. I also really like the act of hunting and collecting images. Whether it’s a project I made on the road or just photos of my friends drinking, I love revisiting those moments in time. What is the worst thing about city life?  Cost of living and hot trash. What part of the planet would you like to explore?  Ocean floor. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? Extraterrestrials. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be?
Abraham Lincoln. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Sociology. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? No regrets, but I do journal about those so I don’t slip up next time. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Google Maps Streetview car driver. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. Really too many to list here. Can I do a photobook instead? While I was in high school my parents went to the “From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America” exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and brought me back the photobook. That book really changed the way that I perceived photography. Until then I hadn’t realized that humorous images could live next to melancholy images and that there was so much process behind the work. How often do you take other people’s advice?

Probably not enough. Describe a personal hell. Small talk about the weather. Which living person do you most admire? My grandpa. He goes out of his way to make people smile and rarely, if ever, says anything negative. He notices the small joys in life. On what occasion do you lie? I’ve never lied. What was the last crime you witnessed? Last summer I witnessed a man running through the streets of Naples. He was running so hard that he tripped over himself onto the cobblestone. People gasped and asked if he was okay but when he got up and ran again, everyone noticed something wasn’t right. An old Italian woman in the crowd then noticed that her neckless had been snapped off and knowing that the man had already disappeared into the crowd, she just screamed in frustration. What is the best way to educate yourself? Through failing. What is the next book you want to read? Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”. Ultimate camera? Saving up for a Mamiya 7. Most used camera? iPhone. What object do you want? A used car. What object do you need? Phone. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? Super useful, entertaining, double edged sword. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Yes although I need to start stretching. Describe a cheap thrill. Talking to strangers. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to.
More than 100 years but I’d love to photograph the California gold rush. Are impulses more important than consequences? Measure twice, cut once. Which talent would you most like to have? I wish I were better at asking questions. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Coffee, clean desk, grocery store, sleep, coffee, photo assist, beer.

Fugue State is a collection of photographs that examine the changing landscape of the American west and the notion of self-identity. A fugue state by definition is the loss of one’s identity or the formation of a new identity from sudden, unexpected, purposeful travel away from home. Many of these places share the staples of small town America, and in that way, can start to blend together into an American West vernacular. Once a vital trade route, these communities have slowly faded from their booming economic pasts, while maintaining the peculiarities of small-town America. Today, a two-lane highway parallels the old wagon trail, and serves as my guide.

If you traveled to the Missouri River in the golden days of the Santa Fe Trail you found yourself at last on the far brink of civilization. Behind you were settlements still raw from the hands of the builders; prairies still steaming from the first spring touch of the plow; then lines of rails, leaping westward, bearing wood-burning locomotives with great smokestacks shaped like inverted cones; then villages where bells swung to and fro on quiet Sunday mornings and people plodded to church along streets lined with ancient elms; then factories and mills, rising with the muddy torrents of the industrial area; then cities where traffic jammed in the streets and theaters dazzled the eye at night. But in front of you, you knew, were opportunity and romance. When you jumped off the west bank of Missouri into the plains country you said goodbye to the best and worst of civilization and entered a region in which the life lived and the people who lived it did not belong at all in the Nineteenth Century of the Occidental world.  – R.L. Duffus from The Santa Fe Trail

Max Mikulecky (b. 1991) is a Brooklyn-based documentary photographer. Born in Wichita, Kansas, his Midwest upbringing has served as a primary influence on his work. His research based projects explore issues of the human condition as a result of economic and social change.

To see more of Max Mikulecky work visit — Website / Instagram.