In an industry that’s so heavily based on relationships and connecting with people, it’s no wonder that photographer Dixie Dixon’s career has skyrocketed in just the few years since she has been out of college. Her personality, charm and energy are infectious, and she goes out of her way to make everyone who she works with feel comfortable and at ease. The Texas native has spent the past few years traveling the world and creating images that not only capture a lifestyle, but often provide a much needed escape from reality. It’s fitting that I caught up with Dixon, who’s passionate about the beach, while she was enjoying the sun, surf and sand in Fort Myers, Fla., to learn about her exciting, nonstop journey.
Captivated by the imagery she found in books and magazines as a child, it was pretty natural for Dixon to develop an interest in photography, especially since her father and grandfather were both hobbyists. "My dad gave me my first camera, the Nikon FG, when I was first starting out and taught me how to use all the manual settings," she says.
Her passion for the craft grew while studying business at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. "Photography helped me come out of my shell," she recalls. "I was a very shy person, so the camera became my sidekick. I’d go to all of these school events and photograph them."
Dixon was in the last class at TCU to use a real darkroom before they converted to digital, allowing her to develop valuable skills that she has carried throughout her career. "I had such a passion for it," she explains. "I was excited to have that opportunity because you can see your pictures come to life. I could spend seven hours at a time in the darkroom. It definitely helped teach me to shoot correctly in-camera."
Photographing everything she could get her hands on while in college, Dixon assisted other photographers, and dabbled in portrait and wedding photography. She’d share her images to Facebook, which was in its early days at the time, but still proved to offer great networking opportunities and helped bring in more work for the budding photographer. She also had another talented family member whose skills proved important to her career. "My mom is extremely talented in marketing and branding, so she was a huge inspiration and help in my work and brand when I was getting started," she says.
Dixon’s business steadily grew in college, but there was one experience that really helped her find direction as a photographer. "My junior year, I studied abroad with a world-renowned fashion photographer in London and Prague, and that’s when I really fell in love with fashion photography."
With her newfound passion for fashion photography, Dixon found work shooting for modeling agencies, and that experience helped lead to another life-changing opportunity. She met a producer who was looking for a photographer for MAVTV’s Doheny Models, a reality show about actress Jasmine Dustin’s Beverly Hills agency of the same name. "The producer liked my work and had me come do some live shoots for the show, and they used the images in their advertising. The next week, I asked if they needed a photographer on any of their other shows, and he said they could use me in Miami to shoot for the [HDNet] show Get Out. I did all the photo shoots of the models on the beach. It was really fun. We went all over the world, from Miami to Puerto Rico, and shot in Toronto and Vancouver. The last episode was shot in Ibiza, Spain. The light there was beautiful. It was that really warm, glowy lighting, and I tend to go for warm-tone looks. I think that’s where I started to discover my style as a photographer."
Dixon’s style has been described as having a romantic, dreamlike quality, but she says a photographer’s style is always evolving. "I think it takes a few years for a photographer’s style to start coming out. You don’t have to go out and find it; it’s something that will evolve and develop the more you shoot."
|Dixie Dixon’s Gear|
AF-S Nikkor 35mm ƒ/1.4G
AF-S Nikkor 58mm ƒ/1.4G
AF-S Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.4G
AF Nikkor 180mm ƒ/2.8D IF-ED
AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm
Profoto B1 flash
Lexar memory cards
Black River Imaging for printing
Graphistudio for portfolio books
X-Rite for color management
But one thing that has remained consistent is how she connects with her subjects. "I try to make images with soul," says Dixon. "Most fashion photography can be almost mannequin-like, where the models are just hangers. I try to capture the real, raw personality of my subjects in a very sensual, beautiful way. I really go to great lengths to create a connection with them by researching what they’re into before the shoot. I’ll look up their Facebook pages and see what kind of music they like, so I can have it playing on set. And when my subjects are in hair and makeup, I like to talk to them and get to know who they are because the more that I can put them at ease, the more I can bring out that confidence within them. I really think that confidence is one of the most beautiful things, and if I can build their confidence when I’m shooting, they’ll be able to really express their personality."
That connection also comes from the positive energy Dixon brings to set to help create an experience that not only puts her subjects at ease, but ultimately helps bring clients back. "I’m all about energy," she says. "If there’s good energy on set, and you get a good connection with your subject and they’re comfortable and into it, you can see it in their eyes. I give a lot of feedback and compliments, and that helps create a mood and atmosphere that people can read when they look at the pictures. I try to get to know not only the subjects, but the clients, as well. I’m always asking them questions. You have all of these different personalities on set and everyone is a little bit stressed because you have a certain amount of time to create the images. So as a photographer, you have to be a multitasker. You have to be able to connect with everyone on set while also remaining focused on what you’re creating."
Now, with a diverse range of clients in her portfolio including Florsheim Shoes, MAC Group, Billy Jealousy, Nha Khanh, Inside Edition, CBS, Profoto and Angelberry Organics, Dixon’s list of accomplishments continues to grow: She’s a G-Technology G-Team Ambassador and is one of only 19 Nikon Ambassadors of the United States. "I’ve been a Nikon shooter my whole life," she says, "so it has been neat to be able to work with the companies whose products I already use on a regular basis."
Dixon already enjoyed attending trade shows and learning from other photographers who spoke at the events, and Nikon was instrumental in getting Dixon in front of a crowd and on the way to improving her public-speaking skills. "Nikon asked me to speak at PhotoPlus and talk about my work. I’m really passionate about talking about lighting and connecting with your subjects. I wouldn’t say I was that great at it when I started," she says with a laugh, "but it’s something you kind of learn as you go. It definitely has been getting me out of my comfort zone. I really enjoy it now."
Dixon has said that she’s inspired by the beautiful illusion of fashion and commercial photography, an interesting choice of words, considering she works in an industry that so often, and controversially, tries to pass off overly touched-up, slimmed-down or enhanced photographs as the real thing. But Dixon’s approach is more subtle, purposeful and tactful. "I like creating that illusion, that dream," she says. "Fashion photography should be looked at more as an art form than reality. The biggest problem is when people think it’s real. That can create those skewed views on photography and the use of Photoshop. It’s really meant to be art."
With a fresh vision and a memorable name that helps her stand out ("Dixie" is a nickname from the sixth grade that stuck), Dixon’s work is a reflection of her infectious energy and boundless creativity. "I get lost in fashion photography," she says. "I’ve always had this crazy, wild imagination, and I really like to bring that out in my pictures."
You can see more of Dixie Dixon’s photography at www.dixiedixon.com.