Looking at Michelle Cope’s photographs — as complex and vibrant as life itself — one could never tell that the adroit artist is still only a teenager.

Her favorite source of inspiration, however, might give that secret away.

That source? Instagram.

“I know a lot of people say others just copy each other off of Instagram,” Cope told the Press.

“I really find a lot of inspiration from it anyway because I don’t personally believe that you can copy a photo — even when you try to recreate you end up getting a different final product.”

The RHS Class of 2016 graduate will have her work featured in Bella Home on Danbury Road during the fourth annual ArtWalk Ridgefield, which runs through Friday, Sept. 8.

Among the images on display will be Cope’s favorite photograph from a series she completed with Pratt University, where she is a sophomore, on a school trip to Cuba earlier this year.

The exhibit is titled Worlds Apart.

“The picture shows a woman standing on top of a building, just doing her laundry,” Cope described. A bundle of balloons in the foreground, round and bright as gumballs, give the composition a flare of vivid color.

Capturing people

Cope’s photographs tend to focus on a human element — in her Cuba collection,  a man standing akimbo, gazing down from above the chipped paint on a tenement balcony; a butcher staring steely eyed at the camera from between meats, all bone and blood, dangling from corrugated tin roof.

“I love shooting pictures of people,” she said. And many of these images embrace a more light-hearted side.

“I have very attractive friends, fortunately, so I mostly take photos of them,” Cope said with a laugh.

The keen-eyed artist will be majoring in advertising, branding, and art direction at Pratt — “basically, communication design,” she clarified. Cope hopes to continue with photography as a hobby, maybe even taking on the interest as a full-time occupation later in her career.

She first learned how to work a camera during an elementary school art camp in central Ridgefield.  

“We’d walk around Main Street taking photos of town,”  Cope said. “I still have some of them — they’re terrible pictures,” she recalled cheerily.

Color and camels

However, in sharp contrast to scenes in her early works — the familiar maroon awnings of Deborah Ann’s and, more generally, the rustic charm of Ridgefield’s downtown — Cope’s next big project will come to completion much farther from home, she hopes.

“I would love to go to Morocco in December and take photos. One of my friends used to live there, so I know a bit about the culture. They love color,” the artist told The Press.  

“And plus,” she added with a smile, “they have camels.”