Who is Michael Baba?
Michael Baba (American, b. 1987) is an Assyrian-American artist born in Sonoma County, California. His work centers on documenting others who traditionally have not had a voice, telling their stories through photography and videography.
After graduating from high school, Baba built a darkroom in his basement, which he outfitted with antique photography equipment, gleaned from Craigslist and yard sales. One old enlarger came from an old West railroad town with majority-Chinese inhabitants. The other came from an old newsroom and was pockmarked with burns from cigarettes hastily extinguished on its wooden base. These ephemera helped spark Baba’s enduring fascination with photography as a historical practice rather than just a medium.
His practice emerges from his own experiences of growing up in a tumultuous setting where the simple fact of being noticed did not feel like a possibility. What started out as a journey to hear his own voice has since evolved into a more collective project, rooted in the politics of recognition and the values of solidarity. This act of bearing witness becomes an act of rebellion: paying attention to those who are meant to be ignored. Baba’s work is centrally concerned with themes of loneliness, belonging, and the comfort of wild spaces and creative practices. He views his artistry less as an act of production than a process of connection. He takes inspiration from French street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, photojournalist Jill Freedman, filmmaker Alexander Tarkovsky, and novelists Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson.
More recently, Baba’s work focuses on documentary-style photography and videography. He has extensive experience working in marketing and communications in the Santa Cruz area. He graduated from Cabrillo College with degrees in Studio Art and Liberal Arts. His work has appeared at Motion Pacific, Cabrillo College, and several television commercials. He contributed to the documentaries Tangled Roots (post-production), and Eden (post-production) as a camera operator, drone pilot, sound recordist, and production assistant.