BY KATIE WOODZICK
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
May 20, 2015
When he was 16, Michael Stadler took his first photography class, taught by Don Wodjenski, at South Whidbey High School. He quickly became enthralled with the process of developing photographs.
“I was struggling to find my place, so I created it visually,” he recalled. “I was really into the dark room and changing reality…and the romance of the red light.”
After graduation, Stadler took a road trip, driving down to Utah with a 4×5 large format camera. He found inspiration in the desert landscapes.
Upon his return in 2001, he attended the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, working as the kitchen manager at The Dog House to pay for school. He lived in an apartment in the little yellow house across the street from the Porter Building, where he built a small darkroom.
Even though digital photography was becoming more and more popular, Stadler still found himself drawn to the darkroom and alternative processes of developing photography.
His culminating project in school was titled “Landscapes from Within” and featured black and white images framed by other images, hand-developed to achieve a surreal effect. The process of building the images was meticulous; Stadler developed the images by hand and sculpted them with light, taking up to three days to create a single piece.
Stadler’s first studio was the little red building that now “rests” across the street from Langley’s Sundance Bakery. From there, Stadler moved his studio to Ken’s Korner, where he stayed for 10 years before moving to the Porter Building in 2014.
Stadler lives on Whidbey Island with his wife Amyli, and their two sons, Asher and Jude. When the family goes on vacation, everyone takes turns with the camera. Asher sometimes holsters a small point-and-shoot camera on his belt loop. Stadler talks with his boys about how to see things in the world—the difference between capturing the moment and creating something that didn’t previously exist.
Stadler’s latest show is called “Transcending Youth” and features black and white portraits of Karol White’s Waldorf class from first grade through eighth grade. Ten students participated throughout the duration of the project, with an additional seven coming in and out of it depending on their schooling.
Looking at the pictures is like viewing a time capsule of the student’s lives. “Their physical bodies have changed, but their souls have stayed the same,” Stadler said. “You can see it in these portraits.”
For his next show, Stadler hopes to work on a dreamlike “Bedtime Stories Series” where children can be placed in a scene from their favorite book or accompanied by a superhero’s cape.
Stadler stays busy in the summer shooting weddings and documenting homes for real estate listings, among other projects. Each shoot opens up the landscape of Whidbey Island a little bit more. “The island keeps getting bigger the longer I live here,” he said, smiling.
“Transcending Youth” will be showing at Stadler Studio at 222 Anthes Ave. in Langley through May 31. For more information, please visit http://stadlerstudio.com.
Katie Woodzick works at Hedgebrook as an External Relations Manager. She is also an actor and director who can be seen on local stages and the host of the Theatrical Mustang Podcast. Learn more at katiewoodzick.squarespace.com.
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a really nice blog about a really good guy and a gifted photographer. when i decided i wanted to do my own small photography business in this very small town, i had one of my first conversations about it with michael stadler. though we were just acquaintances and not friends, i wanted michael to know how much i admired him and his work, and that i wanted to proceed in a way that would never compromise or impact that feeling. michael was encouraging and supportive. he is a consummate professional.
i celebrate the success of anyone who makes a living with their art. michael is a sterling example of that success, and i applaud him and his family for their tenacity and goodwill.
Well said Jim!