Sage Vaughn: a contemporary painter honed in street art noted for his colourful portrayals of wildlife. Michael Muller: a Hollywood photographer with top-flight production values and a personal penchant for underwater photography, especially of sharks. They surf together, and now they make art together. It’s a symbiotic relationship with absolutely spectacular results.
Sage paints in his signature style over Muller’s magnificent photos, creating a whole that’s greater even than the sum of these particular parts.
“I was introduced to Muller in Malibu by a good friend. He told me about a project he had been working towards down in Mexico: great white sharks, underwater lighting systems, cages, it all sounded incredible.
“We'd meet and talk about life, art, waves... One day he asked if I wanted to get some paint on one of the photos he took of the sharks. When I looked at those shots for the first time, my jaw dropped. I’ve been obsessed with sharks since I was a little kid, and even more so since I started surfing, but I had never seen shark images like these. Mike had taken such a different approach to portraying these amazing animals. The amount of character contained in these creatures’ faces was so beautiful, I couldn’t help but be inspired. When our first collaborative piece was finished we knew we were really on to something...”
Michael adds, “It’s sort of like peanut butter with chocolate. What we discovered was that for some reason the two mediums worked for us and we really felt what was being co-created. Sharks and butterflies somehow took the fear of the solo shark away. I have been diving with and without a cage amongst these amazing animals for years, and personally know how safe we are from them, but how do I translate that which I know to people? Working with Sage has accomplished that for me, I feel these pieces somehow some way show these creatures in the way I feel about them.”
Underwater photography uses strobe lighting to restore red and orange elements from the spectrum that are removed from sunlight as it penetrates water. Michael Muller’s bespoke strobe lights are officially the most powerful in the world – he has a patent pending – allowing for still life photo studio conditions to be replicated in the deep, “because I can’t get a great white into my place.”
About the artists
Now 38, Michael begun taking photos aged 15. By age 16 his snowboarding action shots had already found their way into print. He has since built up an extremely respectable portfolio of editorial for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Interview, Esquire, and Elle magazines plus the New York Times among many others. His commercial work includes campaigns for Nike, Range Rover, Dodge, and venerable men’s watchmakers IWC, for whom he has recently completed an underwater project in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands.
A personal project of Micahel’s - reportage of Hollywood’s superhero impersonators - captured the imaginations of LA’s studio bosses. He soon found himself the got-to-guy for the hyper-real photography needed to document and promote high fantasy movies, from meta-human epics to science fiction classics.
Sage Vaughn (b, 1976 Jackson, Oregon, USA) lives and works in Los Angeles. Past exhibitions include Children of a Lesser God at Lazarides Rathbone in June 2011, solo shows at Galerie Bertrand and Gruner in Geneva, as well as Art Agents Gallery (Hamburg), Corey Helford Gallery (Los Angeles) and group shows at Aperture Gallery (New York) and The Outsiders (London).