Guest Blogger – Wylie Maercklein – Stuck in Customs

Guest Blogger – Wylie Maercklein

I am excited to share this incredible artist with you. Luckily, I live here in Austin, so I am able to see all kinds of interesting and unexpected art. I came across Wylie’s work a number of years ago and was struck by it. I am sure you will be too. I am honored he took a moment to do a little blogpost for us.


1) Where can everyone see your portfolio?

My website would get you a decent look:

2) Tell us a little about you – what should people know?

I’m a photographer currently living in Austin, Texas.

I started out as a screenwriter who became a filmmaker (of my screenplays), though the scarcity of items on my IMDB page should indicate about how successful I was at making all that work. I wasn’t very good at it. After a while, I noticed that while I was paying other people in order to make motion pictures, people had started to pay me for taking still pictures. So, the switch was pretty natural.

I do try to maintain a fairly cinematic style: Wideangle lenses, anamorphic crops, letting people move naturally through the frame while I shoot, and trying to tell stories. When I started out at it, I was trying for as many documentary opportunities as I could find. Well, I couldn’t find many, so I took to shooting little fictional portraits instead. That’s what the majority of my photography is: portraiture that tries to tell some kind of story. Character portraits, I suppose. I understand that before the death of the print media, I might have found some editorial work from doing that. As it is, my clients have mainly been advertising and promo folks looking for an editorial or documentary approach. I suppose that’s what happens when you play with reality instead of showing it truthfully: people ask you to make their reality look cool.

3) Tell us about your philosophy about being an artist.

Hmm, I feel bad about mentioning advertising now that I’m being asked about philosophy and art.

Anyway, I’m primarily interested in stylized versions of world and iconic depictions of situations. Like taking some naturalist trope and adding shadows and dutched angles to make it noir. Basically, taking realistic situations and making them, well, more interesting. More narrative. Pushing things to the edge of the frame and making things uncomfortable, or tense, or horrible. Hiding important parts of the image from the viewer so they can fill it in themselves. Beauty tends to be boring to me, as I find people tend to be more interesting in moments when they’re not looking their best. And I find people to be more interesting than anything else I can point a camera at. Above all, I like contrast and shadows and details stripped down to only what matters for the shot. And, yes, I do know what website this is, hah.

One thing I’ve noticed in conversations with other photographers is that many of them tend to be more concerned about the entirety of the frame, whereas I tend to only care about the moment (I’d originally written “the entirety of the moment,” but man did that sound pretentious). The object for those photographers is to create a work where the eye moves about the whole of the frame, from leading line to subject to background and so on. Like the Hobbit: taking you there and back again. And I certainly don’t object to that approach: it includes many of my favorite photographs. I just don’t tend to personally practice that method. For me, and this is probably because my favorite photographers are cinematographers, all I care about is the subject and those parts of the photo which directly influence the narrative. Leading lines are cool, but I want them to simply go to my subject and leave your eye stuck there, swimming in negative space.

I tend to like things as expressionistic as possible in whatever I do- photography, writing, film, whatever. Hell, in most of what I watch or see or read, too. In other words, I like my physical world filtered through mental spaces before they show up on the other side. Even more important than that, however, is that works convey some sort of story and leave any audience thinking about the story of who is being shown and considering what is left undepicted.

Anyway, so, you asked about my philosophy of art. How about: I want to describe the shadows of Plato’s cave; distorted and untrue and bigger than life.

4) Tell us about your future.

Eh, it’s ‘salright.

Photographically, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and maybe get hired some more. And I’d like to shoot some more documentary stuff, or at least see what I can do to get out of town and back on the road. More broadly, I’d like to get back into film at some point (if I can figure out how to do it on someone elses’ dime).

Artistically, I’d just like to get better and try new things.

And personally, I’d like to try and make rent next month and see if I can get my car fixed. And if I save up a little cash, skip town and see somewhere new.