Mike Poggioli is one of those rare photographers who truly meditates on his subject before shooting, and his passion for the craft is obvious. While living in Chicago in 2015, Poggioli’s love of photography grew, fueled by the city’s singular architecture and its orange-hued streetlights in the rain. Winding career paths eventually led him to the foothills of Asheville, North Carolina, where he found a new appreciation for landscapes entirely devoid of skyscrapers and blurry subway cars. His upcoming book, Blue Ridge Dreaming, is the product of meticulously timed hikes, spontaneous Blue Ridge Parkway pullovers, and a true, lifelong admiration for the wild artistry of nature and the elements.
Beautifully printed on uncoated paper and featuring a cloth bound spine, Blue Ridge Dreaming will arrive in bookstores in fall 2022.
How long have you been a photographer and what initially drew you to the profession?
I started around 2015. I was living in Chicago at the time and the architecture of the city really drew me in. As I got more into it, I started connecting with other photographers on Instagram and it became an activity to go out and shoot together and explore the city.
You became inspired in Chicago to begin shooting, but you're in Asheville now. What made you want to move?
At the time in Chicago, I was a teacher and I realized I wanted to change careers, so I applied to graduate schools for clinical psychology. I ended up going to graduate school in Cincinnati, Ohio for a five-year program. I did four years at school there and in the fifth year did a clinical internship. After the four years in Cincinnati I got matched at a clinical internship site in Asheville, North Carolina.
What was the impetus for photographing the Blue Ridge landscapes?
There was always a part of me that felt very connected to nature, even when I was younger. I grew up outside of New York City, but I would literally sit outside just appreciating the sun and the elements. It felt very natural to come into the mountains where everything is so lush, and jog on the Blue Ridge Parkway and see all the layers of the mountains. I also love the fall and [the Blue Ridge area] has one of the longest-lasting fall color seasons in the country. Being surrounded by nature and being able to drive through the mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway really inspired me to switch things up from city photography to taking my camera into the mountains.
Which parts of the Blue Ridge area have you found the most inspiring?
Any overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I really like the Waterrock Knob and I think there are a few photos from there in the book. It’s right at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Smokies. I also really like Looking Glass Rock, which is this old volcanic rock formation. I love the Pisgah National Forest.
Blue Ridge Dreaming is separated by seasons. Do you have a favorite season to photograph in?
Oh man, yes. Fall. I wish the fall was all year round. I think that's one of the reasons why I fell in love with the mountains and Asheville in particular, because the fall colors last for a while. As you can probably tell from the book, I’m drawn to the warmer orangey colors.
Yes, that was my next question for you. You definitely have a signature color scheme with the blue and orange hues. What inspired you to adopt that scheme?
To be perfectly honest, I grew up a lifelong Mets fan and their colors are blue and orange. I remember playing around with editing when I was in Chicago and the streetlights in the grid have a distinct orangey hue. I would take pictures of city shots and play around with saturating those and it made a nice contrast, and then I just stuck with that. There was almost a challenge to myself to see how I could apply that to landscape photography.
What does your process look like for creating these images? Do you have a certain routine or does it change every time?
I would wake up, grab my camera, pick an overlook, and sometimes there would be a hike involved. Other times, it would just be a pull off and would be super easy. I started specifically going out to shoot sunrises. There’s something about when the sun's rising…you're more likely to get cloud inversions. The fog rolling through with the sunrise colors and just the way that kind of light comes in through the layers of the mountains…so I really try to aim for sunrises. It also helps with the editing process. I'm more likely to get warm colors to edit.
The longest I’ve hiked was four miles for a sunrise. I had to wake up pretty early and do four miles in the dark which I did not like. I was terrified! I don't think I'd do that again.
Are you currently working on creating images for another book?
I've been pretty busy from my own private practice. I just got licensed in October, so I’ve been really working hard to build up a caseload. It’s been hard to shoot and to balance that, but I am definitely looking forward to getting back into it.
Honestly, putting all this work into the Blue Ridge Dreaming collection makes me want to explore more of the mountains. I would love to do more of the Smokies and to explore more of Virginia and West Virginia.