Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
My name is Michael Lopez Jr. or MCHL. I am a portrait photographer in Los Angeles and I dabble in almost every genre. My primary things to photograph would be music photography and fashion/beauty photography on both film and digital mediums.
My work primarily consists of POC and Black models because I feel like currently there is A LOT of under-representation and the battle with European Beauty Standards is never-ending. I love to show that hair textures from 3A to 4C are high fashion, medium to deep skin tones are high fashion, and all bodies are high fashion.
I also work with a lot of amazing women in the industry and I pride myself on offering a safe space where women are seen as human and not objects. A place where they can come and feel supported, safe, and relaxed.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I think what makes me unique in this industry can be narrowed down to a few things. One thing would be my values. Growing up with my sister and my mom who had to provide for us on her own really taught me to value women and I feel like that has put me farther ahead in my career.
I also find that another thing that has pushed me ahead is my attention to detail and the hours that I put into my craft. For years all I was watching was editing tutorials in my free time. I saw something I liked in a magazine and I spent hours learning how to create that style and then more hours turning it into my style. Finally, something that sets me apart is my love for photography.
Photography quite literally saved my life and every second I get to spend creating fills me with so much joy. A long day on set followed by a set family meal is something that keeps me going every week.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
That journey happened when I was a freshman in high school. I was living in Hawai’i at the time and my stepmom had given me an old point-and-shoot digital camera to see if wanted to take any pictures of my friends and me. At the time I was very mentally ill and was ready to just give up.
I had been bullied for 3 years of middle school to the point of several hospitalizations, and I just couldn’t find a coping mechanism to make things better. That’s when my best friend Emma told me to start taking pictures any time I experienced an emotion (the good, the bad, and the ugly) instead of self-harming.
For the two years I lived in Hawai’i I would take photos with every emotion. The good stuff we kept the pictures and hung them up, and the bad emotional photos we burned at our weekly bonfires. That was the true beginning of this amazing journey.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
The hardest part of this journey would have to be my struggle with mental health and my diagnosis of being on the Autism Spectrum. I for a long time couldn’t grasp the idea that it’s okay to be different and it’s okay to have good days and bad days. I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was 10 and I got my official diagnosis of ASD my junior year of high school and it’s been a tough battle.
Most people when they think of Autism go straight to the people who have a more severe case, and when people talk to me they are shocked that I have this disability. Visually you would never know unless you lived with me and that’s when my quirks as I call them show more.
The overstimulation to loud sounds, and the safe foods that don’t have the bad textures stocked in the pantries. It’s definitely taken a lot of work to be where I am today and I am so grateful to have been winning the battle against mental health and learning to accept my disability and use these quirks as my own version of superpowers.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
I would love to connect with an agent and talk about becoming represented by an artist agency. I don’t have specific names but I would love to work with Wilhelmina and DMB Represents.
I also would love to connect with the lead photographer at Louis Vuitton and maybe shadow a campaign shoot. Louis Vuitton is a dream brand to work for, for me.
Finally, my third top person to connect with would probably have to be Kris Jenner. That woman runs a tight ship and I need to pick her brain. The business tips she’d have I’m sure would blow my mind.
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