Michael Kolster

Michael Kolster

Fellow: Awarded 2013
Field of Study: Photography

Competition: US & Canada

Bowdoin College

Michael Kolster is currently photographing a selection of American rivers four decades after the 1972 Clean Water Act.  The project includes sections of the Androscoggin River in Maine, the James River in Virginia, and the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania. With his Guggenheim Fellowship he plans to continue photographing these rivers and two others in the American West: the Teton River in Idaho and the Los Angeles River in southern California.

Michael Kolster’s work is in the permanent collection of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York.  He has received two Artist Support Grants from the Polaroid Corporation, which also has collected his work.

Since 2012 Kolster has mounted solo exhibitions at Schroeder Romero & Shredder Gallery in New York City; the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine; Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, Virginia; 621 Gallery in Tallahassee, Florida; the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata; SRO Gallery at Texas Tech in Lubbock; and Space Gallery in Portland, Maine. In 2012 the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts awarded him a residency fellowship.  Loupe, the Journal of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University and Memorious, A Journal of New Verse and Fiction published portfolios of his river photographs, also in 2012.

During his Fellowship Michael will continue to make ambrotypes, unique glass-plate positives, with the wet-plate collodion process at river’s edge. In addition to describing aspects of these rivers, these photographs often display traces of the chemicals that flowed across the glass plates during their creation. These vestiges mirror the natural vagaries and human adulterations of the rivers themselves.  Moreover, the invention of the wet-plate collodion process in the early 1850s shares roughly the same moment in time as the start of the industrial alteration of many American rivers.  By linking photography’s advent to the historical legacies of America’s waterways, Kolster’s river ambrotypes attempt to describe these rivers today as complex, unsettled interplays of human and natural forces flowing through our towns, cities, and backyards.

Michael Kolster lives in Maine with his wife, Christy Shake, and nine-year-old son, Calvin. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has lived in Rochester, New York; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Boston, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Williams College, an M.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art, and a certificate from the full-time Documentary Photography program at the International Center of Photography in New York City. He is an associate professor of Art at Bowdoin College.


Scroll to Top