By Michael Solender
Charlotte filmmaker and photographer Andy McMillan believes photographs themselves don’t tell stories, but rather stories emerge from the life experience viewers bring to the images they see.
“With still photography, people have a hard time seeing a picture and not seeing a window where they connect with the subject matter,” said McMillan. “The truth is it looks just enough like the world to prompt them to project onto it.”
McMillan recognizes still images are absent from the situation both before and after the immediate moment of capture, adding mystery and strength to the imagery.
“In photography, the thing I’ve always been drawn to is the implicit nature of the medium,” he said.
“There is a native lack of context that goes along with it. The power of photography comes from everything it withholds, it’s very exclusive. That makes it a little closer to poetry than literal storytelling, because the viewer is left to complete the narrative and bring it all together.”
McMillan’s editorial and advertising photographic work has been showcased by CNN, the U.S. National Guard, The New York Times Magazine, The Sundance Institute, TED Talks, Time and Vanity Fair. His fine art photography has been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York and in Charlotte at The Mint Museum, Goodyear Arts and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.
He’s recently undertaken a documentary film project, “Mississippi River Styx,” that chronicles a middle-aged man who – after being diagnosed with cancer – decides to spend his last days floating down the Mississippi River in an old houseboat. McMillan describes the film as “a portrait of a man taking an unconventional approach to palliative care as well as a modern telling of the River Styx narrative from Greek Mythology.”
Filmmaking is a new venture for McMillan and a pursuit he’s especially excited about.
“What’s different about working on a film is it is so collaborative,” said McMillan. “You just can’t do it on your own. I really enjoy the process, bouncing ideas and feeding off others. It is energizing.”
McMillan looks to use his 2019 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship to go to Los Angeles this spring and apprentice with highly regarded director Tracy Droz Tragos and filmmakers Clay Tweel and Tim Grant. Through immersing himself in the L.A. film scene and working with such acclaimed filmmakers, McMillan hopes to gain an in-depth view of those with similar artistic sensibilities working at the highest level in the field.
“I find when I’m making art, I need an idea that’s compelling enough to get me out the door and working,” he said. “It’s daunting to create work that is new and good and interesting. It can be easy to be conservative, but if I must choose between interesting work and good work, I always lean to the side of interesting.
“I always hope when I’m out in the world, life changes those ideas into something even better than what I imagined, and the work produced is ultimately interesting and good.”