At Gilmour, Mike Noonan ’87 shined in the pool, a champion swimmer. Nearly 30 years later, his aquatic reputation is surging again.
Except this time, Noonan is finding success on the water, as a photographer of oceans, lakes and rivers worldwide.
“I've always noticed how light and color reflect off water, and I always thought it was beautiful,” says Noonan, who got his first camera as a high school graduation gift. “But it wasn't until around eight years ago that I started trying to capture the images with a camera.”
When he did, he was struck by the vibrant colors that emerged. Viewers of Noonan’s work likewise are impressed by the colors. Often they cannot even gauge what they are seeing. It’s one of the great surprises of his work, Noonan says, especially because his photos, all large-scale and raw, aren’t enhanced in any way.
That abstract perspective is the key to Noonan’s artistry. It’s why he doesn’t consider himself a photographer so much as an artist. “Yes, I know how to work a camera and a lens and get nice pictures of things, but when I take pictures of water it is more about composition, patterns and colors,” he says. In the end, things like light, currents, waves, water traffic and sea life shape his work.
Noonan’s work is found in private and corporate collections worldwide. Five of his works were on display at the Olympia Centre in Chicago. The building purchased the pieces for its corporate collection. After May 3, they were dispersed throughout the city at the company’s other buildings, including the Willis Tower.
When he’s not shooting in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or right here stateside, Noonan owns and operates a luxury leather goods company called PVMN in Chicago, where he lives with his partner of more than 10 years, Phil Palmer.
And while his art clientele is building more and more, Noonan isn’t quitting his day job yet.
“Maybe someday,” he says.
What would be a dream come true for you?
I would love to see one of my photographs sell at Art Basel (the premier international art show for modern and contemporary works). Or an even bigger dream would be to one day see a piece of mine in a museum.
What's the best place you've traveled to?
Myanmar (Burma). We went in 2013, and it had recently opened up. It is a place that seems to be untouched by the western world.
What's one thing you couldn't travel without?
My camera. And my partner.
Which famous person would you love to meet?
I already know Mrs. Kenny.
What is your favorite vice?
Cocktails with friends