Meet Mick Victor: It’s No Accident That He’s a Master of Accident Art
By Emily Rasmussen
Feb. 20, 2017
The graffiti-filled streets of downtown Los Angeles are considered an eyesore or nuisance to many, but some view it as art. If you’re lucky enough, you might catch photographer Mick Victor strolling through the alleyways or around the backs of buildings, searching for the perfect shot of what he calls “Art Unexpected.”
It all started in 2006 when a friend of his was about to demolish a swimming pool. Before its destruction, the friend let his kids have some fun with the pool using paint; and Victor took photographs of the aftermath.
“Once I started looking at the paint, on walls coming together accidentally… that’s what got me interested in shooting abstract paint in different places,” Victor said. “Then it moved on to trying to find collisions of paint anyplace I could find it, things that were unintended like Venice or downtown L.A.”
Naming the project “Art Unexpected,” Victor, who lives in Long Beach, began taking photos of graffiti that had been painted over many times by the city trying to cover it.
Victor, who grew up in the Midwest, got his bachelor of arts degree in Music and Theater from the University of Iowa. He originally went to school to become a music teacher, but eventually fell back to his childhood love of photography.
Once becoming fascinated by this accidental art, his view toward graffiti started to change.
“It’s kind of the voice of the people,” Victor says. “You can tell people not to paint things and not express themselves but they are going to do it anyway. And a lot of it comes from frustration.They’re just screaming. ‘I’m pissed off, I’m whatever.’ They’re just expressing themselves. I mean I’ve seen so much beautiful stuff out there.”
Victor has taken photographs of graffiti from all over Southern California to San Francisco, New York City, and even in London.
“Now I kind of think it should be in more places. I don’t want to deface cities,” he said. “But if there is a big wall, well the city could handle it well. Like instead of a big white wall it could be an expression of something.”
Victor has an idea for a project in Long Beach that could do this. Imagine walking through downtown and seeing a photograph of a person’s face on the side of a building, opposed to a plain white wall. There would be no name, no caption, or no description of this person at all. The campaign would be called ‘City Faces.’
“You want this to be an interactive experience. So you put these faces up, right?” Victor says. “And people say ‘Who is that guy?’ So those people can get their phone out, look up cityfaces.com, or whatever, and they go ‘Oh, it’s that guy.’”
The photographs could be of anyone in Long Beach – city leaders, educators, inventors, artists, athletes, kids. “You would be surprised at how many people live here and how many people do pretty amazing things here,” Victor said. It would bring the community together, dress up the city, and also educate.
In addition to working on his continuous project ‘Art Unexpected’ and pitching ‘City Faces’ to Long Beach, Victor enjoys taking portraits of people. Some of his work has been with writers, designers, and model sessions. Just last year, he was part of a portrait series called ‘Transformations’ at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.
His sessions usually last hours, as he gets to know the person and tries to find a portrait that looks deeper than the surface of them just smiling or posing.
“When they finally stop pretending and I finally stop being real conventional about the photograph, then something will happen, something will reveal between the two of us,” he said. “It’s then, when they’re not trying to look amazing, they look amazing. I’m trying to take that unobvious shot of them. I think it reveals them more.”
Victor shares his love for art by teaching Long Beach fifth grade students about abstract photography, through leading workshops at various schools. He gives a small presentation, then hands the kids a camera, and tells them to “shoot something interesting.”
“For one night, we put this stuff into a gallery with 25-30 shots. Tell them to invite your mom, dad, grandmas, and neighbors. And be an artist that night,” Victor said. “For one night, stand next to your picture and be proud you did that.”
Victor was recently invited to show his work at the Annenberg Foundation, which is a pretty high honor in the photography world. His dream is to one day have a photograph published for the New York Times Magazine.
Victor is also the creative director of I MOBIUS, which does branding, advertising, and marketing.
You can find Mick Victor’s artwork at www.mickvictor.dphoto.com and learn more about Art Unexpected at www.artunexpected.dphoto.com.
***Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on March 2, 2016.