Westmont Magazine Portrait of a Photographer
Michael Taylor ’78 paints portraits with photos. Internationally known for his location portraiture, he is an artist with a camera.
As a high school student, Michael longed to be a musician, but he realized he lacked the necessary talent. Then he took a photography class and discovered he could do easily with a camera what he always struggled to achieve with a saxophone. He decided to become a photographer.
Why then did Michael go to Westmont and major in religious studies? “I wanted a well-rounded education so I could become a well-rounded person,” he replies. “The most important thing about my photography is my liberal arts education,” he adds. “My classes at Westmont grew my curiosity about people, which is an essential aspect of my photography. People are interesting. They always have a story, and I want to find it.”
After graduating from Westmont, Michael enrolled at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and earned a degree there as well, majoring in portraiture and minoring in photojournalism. “I’ve always had my eye on the directional sign that includes both Westmont and Brooks,” he confesses.
Attending Brooks made Michael appreciate his Westmont education even more. “I saw Brooks students who mastered the technical aspects of photography and produced perfectly sharp, well-exposed photos, but they had no content. The pictures were absolutely boring. My liberal arts education helps me focus on more than just the technique or process involved.
“I conduct a lot of seminars about photography, and I talk about the liberal arts all the time,” he says. “It has hurt our culture that people aren’t as educated in the arts as they used to be. We’ve lost that European-style education. People don’t appreciate the fine art of photography.”
Michael has won numerous awards and honors from his peers. Named Photographer of the Year eight times by various associations, he has received six honorary degrees, including an honorary master of science degree from Brooks Institute and designation as Fellow of the American Society of Photographers. The cover of “Portrait Book,” published by Kodak, features one of his prints. Tom McDonald includes Michael in his book on the leading 50 portrait photographers worldwide. Works by Michael have appeared in the Photography Hall of Fame four times and at Epcot Center six times. He has also produced and edited the book on the Fellows of the American Society of Photographers. The greatest honor he has received to date is an invitation to join XXV, a prestigious society of professional photographers.
His participation in a variety of professional organizations includes serving on boards and holding offices as well as committee work. He speaks frequently on portraiture and gives seminars and workshops, which requires extensive travel.
Michael and his wife, Diane Stauffer Taylor ’78 have three children and live in Glendale, Calif. Members of Grace Community Church, the Taylors send their children to Village Christian School. Diane, who majored in education at Westmont, teaches fourth grade at Logan Elementary School in Glendale.