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Michael Blanchard’s ‘Through A Sober Lens: A Photographer’s Journey’ is The a Breakout Book You Need

Farhan Malik

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Michael Blanchard is a rising star in the literary and photography world, having launched books that combine the very best of both worlds, inspiring and riveting readers, as well as capturing their imaginations. It’s clear his talent knows no bounds when you open one of his books, and this is very much the case with ‘Through A Sober Lens: A Photographer’s Journey,’ which beautifully chronicles his recovery from addition with both words and images. Readers go on a journey with him, one that is loaded with faith, love, and hope, as well as the healing and soul nurturing of nature. Recently he let us in on his personal adventure, and what is coming next.

The time of Covid has given some people time to delve deeply into their creative work, while others have had revelations about themselves. What has this time been like for you in terms of your creativity? Has your experience recovering from addiction helped you get through these trying times?

Great question!  I talk openly on social media about my journey back from addiction and challenges I still face.  Several weeks ago I talked about the “voices” in my head.  I consider achieving some state of “quiet” in my brain to be one of my most important frontiers.  I can be my own worst enemy.  As a Type-A individual I continually get on myself for not doing enough.  It comes from childhood and times when I hurt people.  I push too hard and sometimes that hurts my creativity.  COVID has forced me to slow down.  I just finished reading two books on meditation.  I plan on using the remaining COVID isolation to explore the practice of meditation.  I truly believe there are many unlocked creative secrets in my head that get drowned out by the noise.  I look to grow as a person through silence.

Your work is extremely beautiful, compelling and creates a sense of hope in the viewer. When you look at your photographs how do you feel about them and do you happen to have one that calls to you’re the most?

I have two simultaneous thoughts when I look at my pictures

  1. I can see “me” in the photos I take, and the way I choose to edit.  I put an imprint of my soul on each picture.
  2. Can I use this picture to help someone else? What story of hope does in conjure?  How can express my feelings and thoughts in a way that will benefit someone else?

One example is my favorite picture, a sanderling sitting on a beach by itself.  Here is the story it conjured:

This bird is me.

Early on in sobriety when I started to learn how to use a camera, I took a photo of a Sanderling looking out into a great ocean. It stood alone trying to decide what to do next. The ocean looked beautiful but seemed blurry. Everything in the photo was out of focus except the bird and the sand beneath its feet.

After falling down and losing much of the world that preceded, the bird finally had its feet on packed sand; it could see itself again as worthy; it had a place in the world even though the exact place was unclear. I called the photo “Starting Over” and the story is in my book, and the picture became my favorite of all time.

‘Through A Sober Lens: A Photographer’s Journey’ tells your own story in a way that draws the readers in with both words and photography. When did you realize that these two mediums when used together could be a powerful way to engage the world?

It happened on social media.  I started posting photographs, and when I built an early following my ego swelled and I focused on perfecting the art.  After a while the posting of pictures felt empty.  I knew in my heart I was given this talent to do more than sell photographs.  I came out of the closet and started talking honestly about my struggles in recovery form alcoholism.  The stories came from the photos.  I had no training or intention for this to happen.  I needed to get stuff out of my systema and give back if I were to stay sober.  The reaction on social media was incredible.  Words mean something; Photos mean something, but when you put them together there is a power to move people neither can do alone.  I had no idea that would happen.  This was the first time in my life I got somewhere without setting rigorous goals to arrive at a preplanned location.

What writers or visual artists inspire you?

Ansel Adams.  He was amazing both in his pictures but also his humble words.  He never talked as if he were something special.  He once said, “I happen to arrive at the location when God is ready for someone to press the shutter”.  He gave me the wisdom to know that much of being a photographer is the process of showing up.  My favorite writer is Michael Singer who wrote “The Surrender Experiment”.  My whole process of changing from business to writing and photography follows his mantra of saying yes to synchronicities that come your way.

Do you have another book or project you can tell us about?

I am planning a road trip across America.  Something tells me the next book comes form that trip!

You can find Michael Blanchard’s books on Amazon.