We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Lopez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michael, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I pursued an artistic career because art saved my life. When I was eleven years old my mental health began to decline. I was getting bullied a lot and I didn’t have a lot of friends, and for the longest time I was just the weird kid who didn’t talk much. Flash forward a couple of years I had just moved to Hawaii with my dad to get more sunshine and see the best medical doctors the military had to offer. I met my best friend Emma and that’s when my art career really took off. I was gifted my first camera and Emma made me swear that instead of hurting myself when I felt emotions I would take photos instead to express them. All the good emotion pictures I hung up on my walls and all the negative emotion pictures we’d save in a box and burn them at our next bonfire. Ever since I began using photography as a positive coping mechanism I have flourished mentally. I also was diagnosed as high functioning Aspergers when I was in high school (which explained so much to me and my parents about why appropriate social interaction was so difficult for me) and I now have learned to use photography to be more social and make friends and burst out of my comfort zone.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art has always been focused around us under dogs. Being autistic, Hispanic, and a part of the LGBTQIA+ community I have lots of odds stacked against me. I’ve had to breakdown the barrier that people with disabilities can’t do ____ because of their disability. I am living proof we can do whatever we want when the world is kind enough to let us show our skills. As an autistic artist I have personally been featured by Nikon, I was invited to the Pre-Oscars party in LA, I’ve photographed a few big name people, and so much more all within the span of a year. The thing I’m most proud of when it comes to my art is I pride myself on inclusivity! Any person regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, body size, disability, etc. has a place in front of my camera. Everyone is beautiful and everyone deserves to have beautiful pictures of themselves. The biggest lessons I have learned since starting my photo journey is be kind to everyone especially yourself, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do something.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would definitely have to take them to La Jolla and show them the seals and get an açaí bowl from Nekter. Then, we’d have to go to Balboa and check out all the museums and vendors. We’d definitely have to go to the Zoo and Safari park to see the animals and take photos, and to finish up the week we’d go and stay on Coronado Island and enjoy the people, drinks, and beautiful sunsets.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Definitely my mom. My mom is my lighting assistant for the majority of my projects and she continues to support me and my career with her whole being. Second person is my friend Cheyenne Benton. Not only is she a super talented musician and a fashion icon, but she was the first person in California to believe in me and she brought me into her group with open arms and lots of love. Last but definitely not least would have to be my best friend Mahae who has believed in my art career since college and without her I probably wouldn’t be alive today.

Website: www.mchlphoto.com
Instagram: www.Instagram.com/officialmchlphoto
Twitter: www.twitter.com/mchlphoto
Other: Merch Store launching in January: www.mchlstore.com

Image Credits
Photos taken by me Lighting assistant: Dianna Lopez

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.