Michael Knapstein

Middleton, WI


Michael Knapstein (b.1956) is a fine-art photographer who has earned international recognition for his insightful and nuanced visual exploration of the American Midwest. A Wisconsin native, he now lives in Middleton, Wisconsin with his artist wife, Annette. Michael was counted among “14 Inspiring American Artists” by Skillshare and Feature Shoot. The Barcelona Foto Biennale (Barcelona, Spain) named him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year. The Moscow International Foto Awards (Moscow, Russia) named him the International Portfolio Photographer of the Year. The Pollux Awards (Kent, England) named him their Grand Prize Winner and International Landscape/Seascape Photographer of the Year. And Photolucida (Portland, Oregon) named him a Critical Mass Finalist four times. His photographs have been featured in more than 315 exhibitions in a variety of museums, galleries and festivals in over 20 countries on five continents. Knapstein’s images have also received more than 350 awards in some of the world’s most prestigious photography festivals and competitions. His work is included in numerous public, private and corporate collections, including the George Eastman International Museum of Photography (Rochester, NY), Dubuque Museum of Art (Dubuque, IA), Racine Art Museum (Racine, WI), PNC Bank (Pittsburg, PA) American Girl (Middleton, WI), Hewlet Packard Enterprise (Chippewa Falls, WI) and The Sierra Club (Madison, WI). Michael’s photographs began attracting national attention while he was still in high school. At the age of 17, he was the youngest photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Steenbock Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters in Madison, Wisconsin. The following year his work was accepted into the permanent collections of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY and Nikon House in NYC. While attending college, his work continued to win national recognition and was included in the Photographic Society of America’s prestigious Young Photographer’s Showcase national traveling exhibit for three years in a row.


Artist Statement

There is a certain magic to the American Midwest. Honest. Modest. Understated. Sometimes unappreciated. Often overlooked. This photograph is from a large body of work entitled Midwest Memoir that I created as a way to help others see the American Midwest in a whole new light. The Midwest in which I was raised. The Midwest that shaped my experiences and my artistic aesthetic. The Midwest the way I will always remember it, even though it continues to change and gradually disappear around me. Images in this series speak to themes of memory, history, heritage, rural identity and sense of place. I think of the Midwest as being classic and timeless in nature. Therefore, I approached this project from a time-honored “straight photography” perspective in the spirit of Group f/64 and gave the work a modernist character with a strong formalist dimension. My approach was informed by the work of mid-century modernist photographers such as Adams, Weston, White, Strand and Evans. My work was also strongly influenced by the American Regionalism movement and the work of artists who portrayed the American heartland, including Wood, Benton, Curry, Wyeth and Hopper. To support this modernist aesthetic, I utilized a square format in homage to the timeless work created with medium format Rolleiflex and Hasselblad cameras of that era. This look is enhanced with split toning that simulates the look of platinum palladium printing. As a final touch, the images are printed on warmtone matte paper that is reminiscent of vintage Agfa Portriga Rapid photographic paper. I hope my images will help others see the American Midwest with fresh eyes. If you pause for a moment, perhaps you’ll feel the humid air of an approaching thunderstorm, or hear the distant sound of a tractor at work in some far-off field. That is my Midwest Memoir.

Michael Knapstein, Grandsons, 2022, Photographic print on paper,
25" x 25" x 1.5"