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Monday, June 11, 2007

Doug Menuez - Journalist's Eye

Photographer Doug Menuez's years of photojournalism experience lend a fresh realism to his commercial and fine-art work

Journalist's Eye Doug Menuez doesn't want to be pigeonholed—and it shows. The award-winning photographer has covered advertising and fashion campaigns for major brands such as Amazon.com, Champion, Microsoft and Reebok, and is a serious fine-art photographer, as well. Yet he has strong roots in photojournalism, having shot the milestone stories of the 1980s, such as the AIDS crisis, the famine in Ethiopia and the drug wars for hard-hitting publications, including The Washington Post, Time, Life and Fortune.

Menuez is clearly influenced by his photojournalism beginnings in which he was expected to constantly move into a variety of worlds. “You're exposed to so many different aspects of life in photojournalism, so you learn and expect to be challenged,” says Menuez. “One day you're shooting a train wreck, then a Thanksgiving story, then a family portrait, then fashion, then celebrity, and a football game. I like variety—I don't want to do the exact same thing every morning. I don't want to be categorized and put into a box.”

Although his subjects run the gamut, there's a common thread of human emotion and intimacy woven through all of Menuez's images. “What I seek out in my photography may have something to do with the human need to understand ourselves by looking at others,” he says. “I want the viewer to be drawn into the photograph and for the image to communicate something about the subject in a way the viewer understands or is at least intrigued by. In my work, I'm trying to find a core thing that all human beings share.”

This inherent curiosity also led Menuez to explore digital technology early on. While shooting the 1983 Super Bowl, a Nikon representative showed up with a prototype of Nikon's first digital camera and let Menuez test-drive it. “You could only shoot a ninetieth of a second for sports-action,” he recalls with a chuckle. “There was a huge lag time, so it wasn't a useful thing.” (Menuez later would become one of the first people in San Francisco to get his hands on a Nikon D1.)

A few years later, he tested digital printers and witnessed the birth of Adobe's Photoshop while spending a decade documenting Silicon Valley's emerging digital technology and its pioneers, including Steve Jobs, John Warnock and Bill Gates. However, having shot on TRI-X film since before hitting puberty, Menuez was resistant to rely on digital.

“I loved film—the tradition and discipline of black-and-white and how you work the print in the darkroom,” he says. “However, the chemicals were killing me.” Observing the rise of desktop publishing up close and personal in Silicon Valley, he knew there was another way to reproduce images.


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