Dana Neibert: Keep It Real

The tear sheet section of Coronado, California-based Dana Neibert’s website has the imprint of the quintessential commercial pro. What separates him from many of his globe-trotting, camera-toting colleagues is the variety of images he creates for an unusually diverse range of clients from American Airlines, American Express and AT&T to the United States Postal Service, the United States Tennis Association and United Way, with banks, drug companies, and automotive and food manufacturers in between.

But whatever subject matter Neibert finds or puts before his lens, the resulting images are all equally polished, infused with a subtle dose of his individual, reality-based style.

DPP: After studying graphic design at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, you began your professional life as an art director. Why the switch to photography, and how did you make the transition?

Dana Neibert: I worked at a bunch of small agencies in San Diego, which isn’t a huge ad agency market. We had smaller budgets, and a lot of times it was either stock or shoot it yourself. More and more, I would shoot stuff myself. Once in a while, we would have a budget, and I would go out on a shoot using a good national photographer, and I would see what they were doing. Seeing what they were doing, and shooting more and more myself, eventually I realized that photography is what I would rather be doing. The more I shot, the more my portfolio built up. I made the switch from being an art director to being a photographer in the summer of 2003.

DPP: How did you build up your client base?

Neibert: As an art director, I had an insight into being on the receiving end of promos. I knew what photographers did to promote themselves including advertising in magazines such as Archive and Communication Arts, and I knew who all the agents were. I knew getting into awards shows that art directors see was important. If you enter industry-related competitions, you get accolades within the industry, but not many art directors know what PDN is. For a photographer who wants to reach advertising people, definitely, the CA Photo Annual is worth its weight in gold, if you can get in. It’s one of the bibles for art directors. They read every issue, then keep it on their shelves as resource material.

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