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#41750 - 07/18/15 07:44 PM Interview G Dan Mitchell
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
James Morrissey performs an interview with G Dan Mitchell, Nature and Landscape Photographer.
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#41751 - 07/18/15 07:46 PM Re: Interview G Dan Mitchell [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
1. Can you tell us a bit about who you are?

I'm best-known for landscape photography from California and the West. Among my primary subjects are the Sierra Nevada, Death Valley, the Pacific coastline, and the Central Valley. I have also photographed extensively in Utah. In addition to my landscape work I also do urban night photography, street photography, and I recently completed a three-year project photographing classical musicians.

2. What brings you to professional nature photography?

That is a bit of a long story — both literally long in the context of time and rhetorically long in terms of the story being a bit complex.

My father was a New Yorker who spent a good part of his life gradually moving further west, at least partially because he was entranced by the open spaces of the country. Eventually he ended up on the West Coast in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up.

Although he was less of an outdoorsman that he perhaps wanted to be, he endowed his kids with a love of the outdoors. This came though frequent travels and visits to the western landscape, his own fascination with photographing these subjects, and by means of his collection of books about the west. Many of them were full of photographs and I absorbed this material at a very young age. Today I can recall specifically a photograph from one of those books that embodied the mystery of the alpine regions of the Sierra Nevada, and from my teenage years I pursued that vision, backpacking, skiing, climbing, camping, and photographing in my favorite mountain range.

I was crazy about photography from an early age. My father loaned us cameras from the time we were very young, and he took us into his home darkroom before we were out of our teens. I came to a fork in the road before college and I took the branch that led me to a life in music, continuing to photograph as a secondary interest. Perhaps fifteen years ago photography again became a major focus.

3. What items do you feel are important to your work as an artist?

I'm not sure if this is a question about equipment or something else... so let me start wtih the something else.

While there is a place for emulating other photographers — it is a fine way to learn — it is more important to find your own voice as a visual artist. This takes time and it is not an efficient or logical process, and it certainly is little about equipment. I'm not suggesting that one should pick an identity and then set about fulfilling that. I am suggesting that an identity and a voice and frame of reference can arise from doing the work, and that eventually you are just making photographs. If you do that well and in a compelling way, you can be successful as a photographic artist.

4.. Are there any artists work that you identify with? Why?

Some photographers are primarily influences by a small number of other photoraphers or perhaps mostly by those who work in a genre similar to their own. My sources are much more diverse.

Early on I was certainly influenced by the West Coast photographers, perhaps far more than I realized at the time. It was only a few years ago that I thought about an experience I had making a particular photograph as a teenager and recognized that I had almost certainly been channeling what I had seen but not consciously recognized in a few photographs of Edward Weston. I know for sure that I was one of the many young photographers affected by Ansel Adams' way of seeing — who wasn't? I also must have been influenced by Eliot Porter, perhaps though Sierra Club books when I was in college, since people regularly tell me that the see a resonance of Porter in some of my photographs. There are others, such as Phillip Hyde. I've been fortunate to know and be influence by some of the spiritual descendants of those folks, among them current photographers like Charles Cramer, Guy Tal, Michael Frye, John Sexton and many more as well — far too many to name all who deserve credit.

My influences are not only from the world of landscape photography. Photographers of a great range of styles whose work has affected me profoundly include folks like Avedon ("In the American West"), Erwitt, Jeff Wall, Julia Margaret Cameron, Lange, and many, many others.

5. What differentiates the work you do from other nature artists?

In one way, that is a very simple question to answer: I make photographs that embody my own unique way of seeing the world. On the other hand, it is very difficult for me to articulate what that "way" might actually be. I know what I do, but I can't say that I'm the most objective person to describe it. I often say that the photographer is the only person in the world who sees his or her work the way they do. We are "insiders" in our work, knowing what our intentions might be, able to see the work in the context of experiences that surround its making, and much more. No one else can ever see it this way — so perhaps others can better answer the question!

6.How does your work impact you as a person?

For me photography is an entry point for seeing and understanding the world more clearly. When I carry and use a camera I engage my visual world in a way that is rarely possible otherwise. This is true both of subjects with which I'm very familiar (such as the Sierra Nevada) and subjects that are new to me (my recent work photographing musicians). The camera makes me look, then look more deeply, and then look again.

7. What have you found to be the most important factors in developing a business?

I'm not the best person to be offering business advice to other photographers! If you want to succeed in the business of photography, you probably want to pick some aspect of the medium other than what I do! You also probably want to start a lot sooner than I did.

The one thing that I will say is that there is usually a vast gulf between the romantic notions of how people imagine photographers make their livings and the reality of what they do. For example, it is close to impossible to make a good living simply producing and selling landscape photographs — it can be done, but it is very rare. The more typical circumstance also involves non-landscape photography, writing and/or teaching workshops, or even work outside of the photography field.

"Is your goal to make art? To make money? To become famous? Something else?"
Those are very good questions. I think many people who have a passion for landscape photography think they can quit their day jobs and start shooting full time and make a lot of money. However, that is not really the case. Most folks who I know who shoot spend an awful lot of time marketing themselves. they run workshops, they deal with magazines, they deal with agencies, etc. The amount of shooting time they spend is minimal. I guess, I was just trying to get a sense of how you feel you have been able to turn this into an actual business and not just a hobby.

I'm in a somewhat unusual position. I have long had a college faculty position in music, my academic area, but I've also been serious about photography for my whole life. In fact, I often say that I came to a fork in the road early on with music on one path and potentially photography on the other, and at that time I chose music.

This means that I've had the incredible good fortune to make a life out of music and photography! I make money from my photography, but I don't have to rely on it for my primary income. And because of this and because I'm already teaching something else, I haven't done workshops — at least until now. All of this gives me the freedom to focus mostly on the photography itself.

3. You are one of the few proud and unabashed liberals I have met on the 'net (for which I am glad that Steve and I are not alone). Many of the people I encounter, while they love the art and love nature, are politically very conservative. How do you think people are able to reconcile their love of art and nature, and also support policies that are damaging to the environment.

8. What advice do you for new people starting in business but ‘learning their way?’

Again, I'm not the best person to be giving business advice to aspiring photographers, partrially due to my own idiosyncratic background but also due to the range of things that one might do in "the business." Is your goal to make art? To make money? To become famous? Something else?

9. How do you find working on your own? i.e. how do you find structuring your day to get projects done?

For the most part I like working on my own. (I also like people!) While I do photograph with others, most of the time I consider my photography to be a fundamentally solitary activity. I also enjoy the post processing phase of photography and consider it an extension of what I do with the camera. In fact, I spend far more of my photography time in front of a computer than behind a camera.

10. How are you using social media to promote your business?

I've been involved in online communities for over two decades, a particant, a moderator, and even as a builder of communities. I began blogging back in the 1990s, before the term blogging had really entered the lexicon. So it is probably not surprising that I am very connected via social media in all the usual places. While many of my sales come from online contacts, I think that social media is less about direct selling and more about marketing and creating your "brand" as a professional and as an artist.
_________________________
Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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#42100 - 01/29/16 06:51 PM Re: Interview G Dan Mitchell [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York

1. What was the three year study on musicians inspired by?

Several things inspired this project. First, I had the opportunity to do it as a sabbatical project at my college and I was excited to be able to do a project combining my dual backgrounds in both music and photography. The concept was to use the camera to reveal aspects of the lives and work of professional classical musicians that aren't typically seen by the audience — that behind-the-scenes work at rehearsals, backstage, and other places. I had the rare opportunity to work with the same group of folks over a long period of time, so I got to develop a relationship with the musicians that allowed me to make the sorts of photographs that would be difficult to make in a shorter visit.

2. "Is your goal to make art? To make money? To become famous? Something else?"
Those are very good questions. I think many people who have a passion for landscape photography think they can quit their day jobs and start shooting full time and make a lot of money. However, that is not really the case. Most folks who I know who shoot spend an awful lot of time marketing themselves. they run workshops, they deal with magazines, they deal with agencies, etc. The amount of shooting time they spend is minimal. I guess, I was just trying to get a sense of how you feel you have been able to turn this into an actual business and not just a hobby.

I'm in a somewhat unusual position. I have long had a college faculty position in music, my academic area, but I've also been serious about photography for my whole life. In fact, I often say that I came to a fork in the road early on with music on one path and potentially photography on the other, and at that time I chose music.

This means that I've had the incredible good fortune to make a life out of music and photography! I make money from my photography, but I don't have to rely on it for my primary income. And because of this and because I'm already teaching something else, I haven't done workshops — at least until now. All of this gives me the freedom to focus mostly on the photography itself.

3. You are one of the few proud and unabashed liberals I have met on the 'net (for which I am glad that Steve and I are not alone). Many of the people I encounter, while they love the art and love nature, are politically very conservative. How do you think people are able to reconcile their love of art and nature, and also support policies that are damaging to the environment.

That is a tough question. Although my politics are what might be described as moderately liberal, I understand that principled and intelligent people can have a wide range of political views. In fact, I think that the problem today isn't so much liberals or conservatives as it is a loss of the ability to speak to one another about things that we don't agree on. Whatever political perspective one has, I think that most of us can agree that we could do better if we would try to work together to find some productive compromise.

The environmental issues are tough right now. The majority of Americans and other people, whether conservative, moderate, or liberal, are coming to understand that we cannot continue the way we have been without some very serious problems ahead of us — resource destruction, climate change, pollution, and the rest. Slowly but (I hope!) surely, more and more people are getting it.

To some extent I view photography as a way to reconnect people to the world around them. A photograph can be an aesthetic experience, but it can also remind people of a place or a state of mind or the nature of a world that they can learn to value.

4. Are there any specific environmental causes you would like to talk about?

There are so many obvious ones that I think I'll bring up one that isn't talked about enough just yet. As we move to greater use of renewable energy sources, we rely more and more on solar generation. Unfortunately, one thread in this development is based on the old model of centralized, industrial scale power production, and it is leading to the construction of large solar arrays and similar facilities in places that many mistakenly regard as being empty wastelands — desert areas with plenty of sun, few inhabitants, and little obvious scenic value. But these places are not wasteland and they are not empty. They are often places of austere beauty, great solitude, and the homes of the creatures that live there. In my view, rather than building huge solar generation facilities in far flung locations, connected to the users by a huge array of distribution lines, it would make a lot more sense to put the solar generation where the power is needed — on urban rooftops and similar locations.
_________________________
Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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