Ten Questions: LJ photographer lives the dream

Award-winning photographer Michael Spengler and his wife, Jennifer, own studio m/michael spengler photography, located in the heart of the Village.

Studio m is a boutique portrait photography studio known for family, child and teen portraits as well as high-end wedding photography. Spengler is also a commercial photographer.

Spengler has not always worked as a professional photographer. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Spengler, then a high-tech sales and marketing executive, was sitting in an airplane on the tarmac waiting to depart on yet another New York sales trip when a plane hit the World Trade Center.

The tragedy of 9-11 brought Spengler to the realization that he wanted to live his life to the fullest. A talented photographer, Spengler had dreamt for years that he would one day turn his passion into his career, and this turn of events served as the catalyst he needed to follow his dream.

Spengler’s work was recently called “the moment of cool” in a cover story of Professional Photographer magazine. He frequently donates his time and photographic talents to area schools and charities. In the rare moments Spengler is not in his studio or on location, he is spending time with his wife and their three small daughters, Kyra, Mila and Evie.

What brought you to La Jolla?

My wife was raised in La Jolla and wanted desperately to be back home once we were expecting our first child. I was born in Kyoto, Japan, and raised in Munich, Germany, but attended the University of San Diego. Like her, I fell in love with all that our town has to offer.

What makes La Jolla special to you?

The people make La Jolla a very special community. I have been so fortunate to have support for and interest in my business. We have made so many fabulous friends and because of the principal, teachers and other families, our daughters are receiving an excellent education in our local public school.

Next year, my oldest daughter will be attending one of the best schools in the country - The Bishop’s School - right here in our town.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

As a business owner, I would love to see the commercial lease rates be more reflective of the current economic situation, and I’d like to have the parking issue resolved. As a parent, I’d love to see the addition of some family-friendly, affordable dining options (Mr. Rubio, are you reading?), and I really wish we could once again have a village movie theater. But, all in all, we live in a pretty wonderful place, and I am reminded of this daily.

Who or what inspires you?

Those that have the ability to help others through their own success are a huge inspiration to me. I would love to be able to open my wallet more and donate more time to those in need in our surrounding communities.

Hopefully, I will one day be in such a position.

I am also greatly inspired by artists of other genres: writers, painters, filmmakers, architects, etc. When photographing other artists, I always want to reach beyond their basic appearance and find that divine talent within. I want to know their stories and learn of the strengths that led them to develop their art.

And, of course, the great portrait photographers inspire me.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Oh, what a night! Jennifer and I would invite photographers Annie Leibovitz, Hurrell and Avedon; Frank Lloyd Wright; Alfred Hitchcock; Andy Warhol; and President Obama and his wife, Michelle.

The Obamas could bring their girls, too, and they’d play with our daughters while we dined and talked through the night. Of course, with the president and the children in attendance, we’d have to make sure Warhol and the other artists behaved, which might take some of the fun out of it!

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading “The E-Myth Revisited,” which every small-business owner should read, and “Annie Leibovitz at Work,” which walks you through some of her most famous shoots.

What is your most prized possession?

People are more important to me than possessions, so I most prize my family, friends and all my clients who have become my friends.

That said, I’d hate to lose the first 35mm camera I ever owned, and I’m pretty proud of the home we’ve created for our family in La Jolla.

What do you do for fun?

Well, I am a photographer who owns his own business, has a wife who likes nice things and is raising three girls in La Jolla, so I spend a lot of time at work. However, my work is fun for me and I do love being with my girls at the beach, at home on a Sunday morning and for a night at the movies.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

My wife tells me that I’m a great husband and even better father. That’s something I’m proud of. I’m also happy to have found my true calling and followed it. I don’t think a lot of people know exactly what they’re meant to do and many others know what they want, but are too fearful to follow their passion.

I may have pursued my dream a little later in life than I would have liked, but I pursued it and have found success. For this, I am very grateful.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

My motto: “Hope is not a plan.” And yet I still buy Lotto tickets, hope to win and have great plans for what I’d do with all the money!

My personal philosophy: “Why can’t we all just get along?”