Self Portrait on a 100yr old camera in Havana


Situated in the epoch of the Anthropocene, Michael Whelan’s practice engages with some of the most pressing issues of our time. His work deconstructs collective behavioural experiences and engages the observer with a dialogue on the impact that innovations of the modernity are having on our planet, and the individuals within it. Blurring the boundaries of art and science, Whelan’s multi media installations composed of photography, sculpture, text and sound help us engage with questions that can only be asked within the language of art. Communicating with a diverse audience, his work goes beyond traditional exhibition spaces and into public locations, underused sites, socially engaged projects and educational platforms.

Whelan’s methodology is forged on the connections between conceptual topical subjects and an exploration of scale, topographical perspectives and human interaction. He is known for the way he engages with a subject, with an aesthetic that can been described as having a gently observed tranquility. Born in 1977, Whelan grew up surrounded by wild open landscapes. His initial training as a cartographer informed his awareness of composition, space and scale. These experiences continue to play an influential role in the ongoing development of his work, anchoring the audience to a sense of connectedness and belonging. 

Whelan studied Photography and Fine Art, and in 2005 set up his studio. He has been the recipient of several internationally recognised awards, including winning the 2017 Photo Masters Award, Fine Art Single category at the NYPH awards, the International Photography Awards, screened work at Cannes Liones, selected for several PX3 Prix de la Photographie awards, and the RA Summer show. His work has been exhibited internationally at The Photographers Gallery, Dumbo New York, Singapore International Photo Festival and the Magenta Foundation in Canada.

In addition to Whelan’s engagement with socially anchored work, he has lectured at various Universities in the UK and Norway, and has directed several creative projects funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund. In 2016 he set up the ‘If Not Now’ project producing a mixed media piece of portraits and sound from across the UK of elderly members living in social isolation. that followed with an exhibition in the National Museum Of Scotland and at the Houses Of Parliament. The work has been attributed to broader understanding and increased political awareness in protecting and supporting people living in isolation. (

In 2017, Whelan started a co-operative Art project called New Defence (, working with a team of artists, designers and curators on a regeneration project to stimulate positive social impact through the arts at an underused coastal defence site on the Thames Estuary.

Whelan lives and works in London
Words: Alastair Thain