I’m Michael Goldrei, a British and Irish street and documentary photographer. I’m originally from the UK and moved to Vienna, Austria in 2017.
Following a university degree in Astrophysics (which turned out to be a lot of difficult maths and no stargazing; all now largely forgotten), I was fortunate enough to find my way into a more artistic career, which is what I’d wanted all along. I started out as a computer games designer, making 3D dead horses and guns, then moving into a more fulfilling graphic design and illustration career, which is still my day job 21 years on.
I founded Optic Nerve Collective in 2017 with the aim of keeping a balance of genders in its members, as I was frustrated that many collectives were male-dominated at the time. Things seem to be improving in this area, although there’s still a lot of work to do until things are close to equal.
I’m attracted to bold, vibrant colours and anything that shows humour, emotion, or the impact of humans on their surroundings.
I started out purely taking street photos intended to be considered as standalone artworks, but in recent years I’ve also been working on long term projects where the story is told by multiple images.
I have also branched out into stills photography (recently for a British horror film), photojournalism, events photography, and have self-published two books of my photography.
Having learnt a few lessons the hard way, along the lines of “I’d have captured that award-winning shot if only I’d brought my camera with me”, these days I always have a camera around my neck, even if I’m just doing the 2 minute walk from my apartment to throw rubbish into the nearest recycling bin.
Some say it’s best to shoot when the sky is grey, but for me you can’t beat bright sunlight and the vibrant colours and interesting light and shadows that it provides.
The best time for me to shoot is when I’m seeing a place for the first time; everything seems at its most exciting and interesting. Having moved to a new country a few years ago with plenty of ‘quirks’ and differences still gives me a lot to observe and enjoy.
One thing I’ve had to adjust to here is in navigating the laws around privacy. Unlike the UK, where it’s legal to photograph people in public places, that’s not the case in Austria. So, I have to be more careful in what I photograph and where I publish it.
I love capturing London thanks to its multiculturalism, fashion, culture, history and size. Despite having lived there for 14 years, there’s still so much of the city that I’ve never seen. Budapest has also provided me with a greater number of successful shots than many other places, thanks to its beautiful architecture, lively people, colour, and historical baths.
It’s thanks to one of the UP Photographers that I got into street photography; I took an afternoon workshop with David Gibson in 2011 and was immediately hooked. My ‘Trois Garcons’ photo was taken on that very first try, on a street called ‘Chance Street’. You can’t get more of a calling than that!
One of the greatest joys in life for me is in spotting a great scene and capturing it. For such a photo to then be enjoyable on repeated viewings, thanks to the people, history, and story within, is a great feeling. And to have one’s work exhibited, meet other fanatics on walks, workshops and at festivals, who become almost like family, really makes it hard to beat!