Photographer captures city's electric side

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Friday January 21, 2011

By Thalia Seguin,

CentreTown News

Through Mike Gericke’s lens, nothing on the streets of Ottawa is as it seems.

The photographer, also known as “Mikey G,” creates images of graffiti covered walls, cars, motorcycles, shops and nature with electric pops of colour through digitally edited pictures.

Last month, a photograph he took portraying the Ottawa River as a mixture of turquoise and deep blues against crisp white ice was featured in an exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The show was called “Touched by Fire: the art show you have to be crazy to enter.”

The art sale is an annual event put on by the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario.

Gericke is quick to acknowledge that while he is the creative mind behind the photos, his new-found success couldn’t have been achieved without help along the way.

After overcoming an anxiety disorder, Gericke, 52, says Centre 507, an outreach program on Bank Street, transformed his “hobby” into a potential starting point for a photography career.

Gericke says he began experiencing anxiety when in crowded places as far back as his days as a high school student.

Eventually, this reached a point where he was hesitant to leave his home.

He says using Paxil, a medication which he still takes “so things don’t get worse again,” helped him overcome these difficulties and have allowed him to spend time on the streets honing his craft.

He says it was Centre 507’s life management skills worker, Margaret Johnson, who encouraged him to send his photos to the Royal Ontario Museum in the first place.

“Margaret was actually the one who sent me an email with the link to the contest,” he says.

Johnson says Gericke’s story has encouraged other participants at the centre to explore their artistic sides with confidence.

She says the centre now has plans to launch an art studio for street artists called, “Artistic Expressions.”

lifted them up, as well,” she says. “This was an opportunity for not only Mike,
but also others to be seen in a different light.”

Johnson says she first realized Gericke’s talent when she saw his photos on Flickr, a photo-sharing website.

“I was looking through, and I was really struck by them,” she says.

Johnson says she thought he could move forward with photography, and began making business cards to help him promote his work.

While planning of the art studio is still in its early phases, she says it’s success stories like Gericke’s that have helped fuel the operation.

“We want to take this moment of success and build on it,” she says.

In the meantime, Gericke has been expanding his body of work by collaborating and exchanging services with local businesses.

“He’s the eye of the street,” says massage therapist Sunny Maya.

She says she had Gericke take some photos for her studio on Lisgar Street, and that other businesses have done the same.

“It’s a combination of special events and taking the camera around and keeping my eyes open,” he says.

Gericke says he takes his camera everywhere with him and usually takes photos for about an hour each day.

“He has support because people know him,” Maya says.

Gericke says through Flickr and his work in the community he has received overwhelming support and encouragement.

“I’m just riding this wave,” he says. Gericke says he hopes the future will hold more opportunities for him to expand and promote his work.

“One day I’d like to see Mikey G calendars, coffee table books, postcards. Everything.”