Welcome to the
Quarantine Interview Series!
I had the idea to do this series about three weeks ago. As I was working on our Quarantine Photo Challenge, I started thinking about how I would love to interview photographers I admired, to ask them about their photography and how they were handling life during quarantine, and make it into a series to go along with our Quarantine Photo Challenge.
But would they do it? Who am I?? After pondering the idea for a couple of weeks, (and wrestling with my fear!) and getting a pep talk from a friend, I did it. I sent out emails to a bunch of photographers. Would anyone respond? Would anyone say YES??
Well...some of them DID say yes, and the Quarantine Interview Series came to life!
Our first interview!
I am so excited to introduce you to our first "guest" to our Quarantine Interview Series...David DuChemin! I have followed David for about 10 years now. I ordered his first book "Within the Frame" shortly after I moved overseas, and it was the perfect book at the perfect time. It was all about finding your vision in your photography, with a backdrop of travel and humanitarian images. I loved it! Since then, I have learned so much from David! He is an incredible teacher, and I have taken many of his courses, and read most (maybe all!) of the books he has written over the years. He is also a bit of a philosopher, and I love his podcast "A Beautiful Anarchy" where he ruminates on all things related to creativity.
And he's Canadian, as am I! :)
I believe I am the photographer I am today largely because of David, so I owe him a huge debt of gratitude!
I was thrilled when, within five minutes of sending him the interview request, he responded with "Yes! Let's do it!"
So here you go! Our first quarantine interview!
We start with his bio, to tell you a bit more about him, and then you can read his interview below that. I hope you enjoy getting to know him as he talks about photography and life in quarantine...
David duChemin is a world & humanitarian assignment photographer, best-selling author, and international workshop leader whose adventurous life fuels his fire to create and share. Based in Victoria, Canada, when he’s home, David leads a nomadic life chasing compelling images on all 7 continents. When on assignment David creates powerful images that convey the hope and dignity of children, the vulnerable and the oppressed for the international NGO community. When creating the art he so passionately shares, David strives to capture the beauty of the natural world.
David’s travel has taken him through winters in Russia and Mongolia, a summer on the Amazon, spending time among nomads in the Indian Himalayan and remote Northern Kenya. He’s done assignment work in Ecuador, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Ethiopia, Malawi, DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Bangladesh, among others, and pursued personal work in places like Iceland, Antarctica, Tunisia, Cuba, Vietnam, Kenya, and Italy. Drawing on a previous career in comedy, David is a dynamic and engaging itinerant presenter and educator. A driven artist, creative professional, entrepreneur and life-long adventurer, David educates and inspires through stunning visuals and hilarious travel stories, and insights, from a life spent outside and abroad.
Photography related Questions...
How long have you been doing photography, and how did you get into it?
I picked up an old German Voigtlander rangefinder 35mm camera at a garage sale on a whim and was hooked. I was 14 years old at the time and it’s been almost 35 years since that moment. Something about it just kind of made sense to me. And then I got into the darkroom and it was just magic.
What kind of photography do you do?
For a long time it was mostly travel and humanitarian photography. I’m interested in different cultures and faiths, and it was a good excuse to see the world and do some good. Now I also do underwater and wildlife photography. For me it’s all about the adventure.
What do you love about photography?
So many things, but ultimately I think photography is a way to be more alive in this world, to see it more deeply and hold onto the smaller moments for longer. It invites me to be present in a way that I wouldn’t have learned without the camera.
What inspires you? (Not just photography related necessarily…could be anything!)
I love the discovery of new things. I’m inspired and rejuvenated by walking around a new place and discovering hidden corners, and having unexpected meetings. But also books. I’m a voracious reader. And writing. I write to think and there’s almost no better way to get my thoughts flowing than to either write or to teach.
What do you do when you are feeling uninspired to take photographs?
Depends. Sometimes the photography is work and as painter Chuck Close said, Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and work. So sometimes I just get to work. Other times I just put the camera down. I can happily spend a month or two without looking at my cameras and focusing on other creative endeavours. For me it’s all about the creativity of it, making new things. Sometimes that’s photographs, sometimes not.
How do you put emotion into your photographs?
You’ve got to feel that emotion first. To care deeply. But then it’s so many things, isn’t it? It could be beautiful light, it could be the choice of a great moment, or a powerful juxtaposition between elements in the image. If you can learn to tell a story, you can hook people emotionally as well as captivate their imaginations.
What makes a good photograph, in your opinion?
Connection. Doesn’t have to be sharp, doesn’t have to be perfectly exposed, whatever that means. It has to connect. It has to grab on and not let go. I’m less interested in the question “is it good?” because there are so many reasons we all make photographs and what’s good to you depends very much on what you’re trying to accomplish. But I’m very interested in the questions: “is it truly mine?” and “does it connect?”. Another question might be: “is it alive?”
What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Get over the gear as fast as possible. Master it, and don’t let it master you. These are tools to say certain things in a photograph. Learn what you want to say and how you like best to say those things. They are infinitely more important than which camera you use. Study the masters, ignore the so-called rules, figure out what photography is to you and no one else. Then do that.
Quarantine Related Questions...
What are you working on during this time of quarantine? A new project? Going through old work? Taking a break? Waiting for it to be over…?
I’m doing a lot of reading. Also writing. And I’m working on a couple new courses and getting two more books ready to publish and release into the world. It’s Spring here so the garden is gorgeous and I’m spending as much time outside as I can, often with a cocktail to watch the evening come.
Have you found this time to be energizing or depleting?
Very energizing. But I acknowledge that I live out of any major cities, surrounded by nature. I don’t see the effects of this the way others do, and am rarely confronted with the stark reality that others are.
I have been leading a Quarantine Photo Challenge for the past few weeks and we have been using photography to explore and express some of our feelings and emotions related to this quarantine. What would you say to the following questions…
What are you grieving during this time of quarantine? What losses have you experienced as a result of this virus?
The loss of travel and even the loss of dreaming about future travel. Things are so uncertain I’ve just let those dreams stay on the shelf for now. But I miss them very much.
What is bringing you joy during this time?
Writing. Being productive. Really the same things that brought me joy before all this started. I miss seeing friends and hugging my mother.
What gives you hope for the future (in terms of quarantine and the virus)?
Life has a way of going on. Here in Canada, especially where I live in British Columbia, we’ve flattened the curve better than many, and though it will be a long time before we find our new normal, I’m hopeful it will and we’ll adjust. We’re so well connected now. Imagine going through this 100 years ago without the ability we have to remain connected, and share information.
What are you looking forward to?
Going out to dinner again. Traveling. Social media that isn’t quite so anxious, sad and fearful. Hugging my mother. Meals with friends. The gratitude that will come for little things we all took so much for granted.