By Priscilla Aviles
It’s easy to get frustrated with computers and technology, even more so if not brought up surrounded by it. Edward J. Michalec, a Queens native who was named “Photographer of the Year” by the international nonprofit association Professional Photographers of America, didn’t even know how to turn on a computer until 1999. It’s all the more inspiring then that his art expression of choice — digital photography, enhancing or manipulating an image on a computer — would give him such success.
Not even 10 years after learning how to use a computer, Michalec is a multiple award winner whose images have been recognized and shown in various art shows across the country and the world, even earning an award from the president of the Republic of Korea in 2005.
This year in Phoenix, four selected awardâˆ’winning photos of Michalec’s, along with thousands of other photographers’ images, will be shown in the world’s largest annual display of professional photographers’ work.
“Thousands of domestic and international photographers all merge once a year for this one big meeting and display all their work that’s been awarded. It’s networking with photographers throughout the world,” he explains.
For someone so extremely intertwined with the new digital era, it may come as a shock to learn that Michalec, a graduate of the Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts, is not only deeply tied to nature but actually considers himself a “country boy from Flushing.”
Taking a walk around this area now, it’s difficult for many of us to see what Michalec grew up on: a farm. “I grew up in Flushing, Queens, when it was mostly a farm area and was known as ‘Kerosene Heights’ because of its lack of electricity.”
Where children today spend most of their time listening to their iPods or textâˆ’messaging friends sitting a few feet away from them, Michalec’s childhood in the late 1930s was virtually the opposite.
“As children, we used to pick our vegetables and eat them raw,” he said. “Our lunch hour was invading the nextâˆ’door farm.”
When asked if adapting to such a change of pace was difficult, the answer was simple: “You do it.” While he admits that there are certain things he is nostalgic about, the past is not completely roseâˆ’colored, at least when it comes to being a photo artist.
“With the old cameras, you just couldn’t do what you can today,” he said. “Without the area of digital, some things would be impossible to do.”
Michalec feels that having a connection with and working knowledge of the environment is absolutely necessary for all of us, especially for artists, but he understands and respects the importance of technology. For art specifically, he considers the computer to be “another vehicle in which to communicate what you want to say.”
The noted photographer simply explains, “I’m taking advantage of the age of digital.”