Meet the Artist: Chad Michael Ward

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Fine art photography that inspires—and ensnares.

By Kelli Comer

Cleveland transplant Chad Michael Ward is a renowned photographer, filmmaker, storyteller and entrepreneur with a keen eye for finding exquisite beauty in the darkness.

“I’m really attracted to a dark aesthetic, particularly with horror movies, post-apocalyptic novels and indie comic books,” Chad says.

“From musicians like Marilyn Manson and David Bowie to fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo to classic painters like Caravaggio and contemporary photographers like Gregory Crewdson, I draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere I can.”

The Bone Witch by Chad Michael Ward

In the early ‘90s, Chad developed his own distinctive brand of dark fantasy-themed fine art photography. In 2004, he brought this vision to Marilyn Manson, photographing and designing the rocker’s “Lest We Forget” album and the music video for the single “Personal Jesus.”

Most of Chad’s work focuses on pairing a dark aesthetic with the exploration of human vulnerability and the concept of personal myths. As a completely self-taught artist, Chad’s career trajectory runs the gamut from ambitions of illustration to a full-time photography career, landing now with his primary interest in filmmaking.

“I tend to incorporate a lot of different mediums and approaches to my work. The concept will typically dictate the presentation,” explains Chad.

Gabby Graves in custom crown by Missy Munster. Photo by Chad Michael Ward

“Over the last decade or so, I’ve spent most of my time bouncing between singular photographic images—portraits primarily—and short films, which allow me to explore my ideas in a fuller context.”

Chad moved into the world of filmmaking and directed dozens of music videos for legendary musicians Berlin, Billy Idol and Slash. He also contributed cover art to best-selling young adult novels, including The Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle and The Hunger Games.

Alchemy Studios' Glenn Hetrick by Chad Michael Ward

Living in Los Angeles, Chad spent a lot of time working with makeup artists, models and costumers to create much of the photographic work you see on his website and Instagram. Since moving to Cleveland earlier this year, he has shifted his focus back to short films.

“Ohio is such a rich and multifaceted environment, ripe for filmmaking,” notes Chad. “I’m incredibly excited about the chance to capture some of that in my upcoming work.”

To reach Chad, you can email him at Visit to learn more about the artist and his work. Find Chad on Instagram @chadmichaelward_photographer.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment