1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Michael Taisto Ranta. I am a graffiti writing, train riding, rock climbing, photographing biochemist traveling the country. I was born in San Francisco and grew up in a stucco home in Tempe, Arizona, and now temporarily reside in a cabin in Wyoming.
2. How did you get your start?
When I was in high-school my mom gave me a 1980’s Canon AE-1, the same one she used when she was about my age. I still use it. I ended up taking photography classes in public high school but my teacher tried to flunk me because my photographs didn’t meet the criteria for the class, she once said, “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have any character, Michael.” Regardless I managed to still find joy in photography and the arts. My images have always been of my friends and the things that we did together, just as they are today.
3. What inspires you?
I see things that I think are beautiful and I want to show that to others, I want people to see things the way that I see them. I have a photograph of my friend Gavin asleep in the grass in Eugene, Oregon, while we were waiting for a train. We had been waiting for two days and it had been raining so when the sun finally came out he took his shoes off and hung his wet socks up on a bush and fell asleep. When I saw him there I didn’t see the two days we had been waiting, I didn’t see the cans of corn we were living off of, it didn’t smell like three kids on the road. It was just a moment I thought was beautiful in the way that I saw it.
I’m moved by a lot of things but what I’m inspired to photograph is usually the beauty that you have to earn by dragging it out of the mud.
4. What do you like about AZ?
Arizona supported me through the hardest of times. I got in a lot of trouble growing up and I don’t think that I would have learned how to live without those specific people at each specific moment. I’m constantly overwhelmed with support by Phoenix artists and it has allowed me to get some wind in my sails. However big the sprawl of the city, I always manage to feel like I have a friend close by.
5. Where can we see you(r) work?
I have some photographs that will be shown at Bokeh Gallery at the monOrchid in November. I’m really grateful that they have been so supportive and have asked me to exhibit some of my work there. I have a few years worth of photography from riding and traveling around the country so all of the photographs that don’t make it into the show can be found on my website, thatkidranta.com as well as copies of letters that I have written to family and friends while on the road.
6. What would you like to accomplish before you die?
I think that “before I die” would be too long of a list. I’m really trying to see as much of the world as I can, and right now that is coming together in the form of a 32-foot sailboat. I don’t know, life has been better to me than I have been to myself, maybe I’ll just see how much I can get away with.
7. What is your mantra?
Keep your side of the street clean.
View Michael Ranta’s work in the Bokeh Gallery at MonOrchid Nov. 7 through Nov. 31.