The Man Behind Unstuck Woman

There’s this wild animal in my kitchen, standing with a slight slouch, like he usually stands, boiling water in an alabaster kettle for some tea. He’s in his uniform of a basic black tee, old ratty jeans and red high tops; the red now pale and worn like the aged mountains we once saw together in New Mexico. I can't remember what tea we drank this morning, probably an ancient puerh or the purple tea titled ‘Gateway of Spirit.’ No matter the tea, a gateway is always opened and we’d sit and talk for hours, an endless and boundless rhetoric. Our best ideas always seem to come during our tea, or even on long walks around the neighborhood. They would start with us wondering what kind of people live in this house or that and end with us contemplating how long it takes to write a book or what people in Iceland eat for breakfast. Always wondering.

Mechanical engineer, motorcyclist and bass player, Tamara Raye

“I think I’m going to start only photographing women,” Michael said to me one afternoon. We were sitting at the dining table, the only barrier between us being our laptops and a haze of scattered papers, often scribbled with unreadable notes to an outsider. That's how we like to work most days with only a few feet between us to make bouncing ideas off one another effortless and simple. There lies the joy of dating another artist; thoughts are always flowing and rumbling like waves crashing, creating this quiet murmur inside our heads and hearts that never really leave, and thank God for that. 

Michael's idea for Unstuck Woman came as organically as an idea can come. He was and has been The Unstuck Man for many years now, breathing that wild life, travelling to countries where the comfort of a western world are obscure. Michael has lived in foreign places with little to no money, thriving off his good nature and the generosity of strangers who rest in simple dwellings, always spreading this magnetic idea of becoming unstuck. His initial project, The Unstuck Man, became a living diary for him; a photographic journal through which he has shared his personal journey and experiences of becoming unstuck himself. Granting people access into his life and travels and redefining what it means to be happy. The kind of happy you don't truly see in movies or books, but the real living type that breathes life into your heart, that can't be defined with words because those words don't exist, at least not yet, not in our language.

Over the years I would receive tiny clues as to where Michael was in the world; a photo of fishermen praising their catch in Thailand, a monk walking the streets in India or teenagers selling avocados on the side of the road in New Zealand. But, after years of living away from home, after years of existing in a space of continued movement, Michael decided it was time to come home. He would continue his project in familiar territory.

Michael has an unrivaled affinity for humans, for all living beings actually. It only felt natural to extend this initial project and seek out others who are also unstuck. Some days we would sit together and bask in the brilliance of these amazing humans, slowly and artfully going over which photos work best, admiring their talents and skills. And then something happened, a pattern was noticed, a repetition, a sort of rhythm, and it had a pulse. The type of pattern that was clearly and intricately woven by the Universe, patiently waiting for its moment to exhale.

 
It happened by accident I suppose, these women coming into his life, but when you feel the pull of the cosmos draw you to purpose, are there really such things as accidents?
 

Michael noticed how often he was photographing women; beautiful, strong, and intelligent women and thus Unstuck Woman was born. It happened by accident I suppose, these women coming into his life, but when you feel the pull of the cosmos draw you to purpose, are there really such things as accidents? This project is simply about photographing women who are empowered, who are nurturing and loving but also hardworking and passionate. He noticed early on that there is something happening with women right now; not only are they rising and soaring but they are also clicking and supporting each other and I think for Michael it felt really good to be documenting this shift. With that, a sort of blind faith happened, belief without true understanding, that Michael is exactly where he should be, that this is what he was meant to do. And my heart warms at that thought; a beautiful man spreading the wisdom of beautiful women.

Ashmore Ellis, founder of an all women’s motorcycle event named Babes Ride Out and a camping/riding gathering, Sierra Stake Out.

I see now how important this project is to him, and why it holds such a powerful place in his heart. It would be a mistake to not share the message and gifts of these women, it would be wrong to not capture their beauty and empowerment that so clearly shines through each and every image like a blinding light darting across the night sky, so bright it hurts your eyes yet you can't seem to look away.


Cover photo: Gloria Noto, founder of NOTO botanics & makeup artist.


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