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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jay Dickman: Far Afield

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jay Dickman has spent more than three decades on the road capturing subjects from the meager to the momentous

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“On a recent trip, ‘Around the World by Private Jet,’” explains Dickman, “we had landed in Cairo, Egypt to visit and photograph the pyramids. This gentleman was standing near me, I asked if I could photograph him, and I had a window of about three minutes to pull it off. I wanted this image to appear timeless, so the viewer doesn’t know if this photo was shot 10 minutes ago or 40 years ago.”
“Not only does the photographer not have to cover bases by shooting more and with a second camera,” Dickman adds, “you can keep your camera to your eye without that 36-exposure countdown. An event is occurring, you’d have film camera to eye, and you’d be so concerned about the frame count—36...25...20...12—oops! Now I’m down to six frames and the moment is building. Do I change film now or hope to get it in those last couple of frames? And how many images would you see in mid-change of that roll of film? I love film, I love the look of film, the tactile aspect of film, but I’ll sacrifice those for everything digital brings to the table. And I think most viewers, pro or not, would be hard-pressed to discern between film and digital when viewed in a publication.”

The Future

Dickman has always felt that he has had a guardian angel watching over him. He has had led a fortuitous life, and after more than a quarter-century of photography, he shows little sign of slowing down. He and Becky started the FirstLight Workshops in 2003 with events that have been hosted in France, Scotland, Barcelona, Wyoming and other locations, with a trip scheduled next year for the Aeolian Islands in Italy.

He continues to work closely with National Geographic as one of the liaison photographic experts for National Geographic Expeditions, which partners with Lindblad Expeditions, as well as the National Geographic Around the World by Private Jet excursions. These adventures have taken him to the Arctic, Antarctic, Baja, the Galápagos, and the Cape of Norway, among other destinations. He gushes at how fortunate he feels to be involved in these projects, as they allow him to combine the two things that he loves, photography and discussing photography with the many other devoted photographers that he has met along the way. He has worked with National Geographic’s Photo Camp for young photographers who are encouraged to explore their communities and exotic locations through the lens. Dickman also maintains status as an Olympus Visionary, an HP Pro Photographer and a Lexar Elite Photographer, and his passion for the medium has kept him at the forefront of technology. It’s an excitement that continues to grow for him, and though the tools may change, to Dickman the basics remain the same.

“This is an amazing business,” he muses. “The outlet for our work is changing, being given new direction by the advancement of technology. Many traditional ways of sharing our work have changed; some are disappearing, such as newspapers in many areas. Still, the electronic display holds a huge and positive future for photojournalists. Video is making inroads, as is multimedia, but I’m a firm believer that still images will always be around; no other way of presenting captured media is as personal or so attached to the processes of the brain in the way we remember and think.

“As a kid, I grew up reading and being heavily influenced by magazines such as Life and National Geographic,” Dickman reflects. “I’d come home from school, looking forward to opening the latest version of those publications, and just be blown away by those frozen moments. At that time, I didn’t realize what impact the still images were having on me; I now look back and realize how defining that exposure was to my future. Photographers are one of the most important storytellers. We think in terms of still images. If I mention 9/11, your first pet, your wedding—1st, 2nd—the Vietnam War, it’s a still image that comes to mind when you hear those terms, whether you think you’ve called that image up or not. That’s how the brain works; almost like the sense of smell—it’s instantaneous and uncontrolled. That’s what I love about this craft: We can be the facilitators for our audience’s memory of a particular event, place or time.”

To see more of Jay Dickman’s work, visit www.jaydickman.net. Information on his FirstLight Workshops is available at www.firstlightworkshop.com.


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