Michael Barker is a Toronto-based freelance photographer specializing in environmental portraiture—a genre of portraiture where the subject is placed in their workplace or home and their surroundings are an integral part of the image. Past freelance clients include New College at the University of Toronto, Victoria College, Emmanuel College, and the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto.
Michael has made two documentary projects on alternative education with documentarian and fellow alternative school graduate Ariel Fielding: ALPHA Alternative School 1972/2012 and the ongoing serial project Fieldwork: Talking With Teachers in Alternative Schools. Both of these projects have been published on Ariel and Michael’s project website, notesfromthefield.ca.
Michael’s past documentary work includes a multi-year project with the Toronto Wildlife Centre—Canada’s largest and busiest wildlife hospital—bearing witness to our often ambivalent relationship with our wild neighbours and the tragic consequences for animals as a result of our impact on their habitats and ecosystems, and The Lab, a photo series documenting Niagara Custom Lab—a boutique motion-picture-film processing lab in Toronto—through still life images of the lab’s profusely and anarchically decorated workspace. Even as large commercial labs close their doors, Niagara Custom Lab remains proudly and stubbornly committed to film, a position requiring a MacGyver-like resourcefulness and firm belief in film’s unique alchemical properties that is reflected in the artful visual pandemonium of its own workspaces.
In 2017 Michael began a long-form documentary portrait project in Sointula (Finnish for “Place of Harmony”), a remote village on Malcolm Island in British Columbia, originally founded as a Finnish socialist commune.