“I’ve learned that I enjoy telling a story with my photography. I want my images to be up close, unobtrusive and intimate.”
Dyanne Wilson is a contemporary photographer based in Canada. When it comes to photography she’s primarily self-taught. However Dyanne Wilson has taken a few art-history courses at the University of Ottawa and some more technical courses at the School of Photographic Arts in Ottawa. She has recently published a book about her work in Paris calles “Impressions Of Paris”.
“I strive to adhere to Kahlil Gibran’s idea that ‘Work is love made visible’. In other words, I photograph and produce images that which I love.”
Interview with Dyanne Wilson
Dyanne, why did you become a photographer?
Perhaps I’ve always been a photographer. I recall as a child burning through a roll of film for the most mundane things: a ride up the gondola, taking off in an airplane, photographing family portraits etc. I was always ‘framing things’ visually. I only became a professional photographer when my children grew up and left home and the public service in which I had worked all my life was laying off people. I realized that life is short and that I might as well pursue something that would satisfy me spiritually.
What was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
I’ve had many but what comes to mind is when I was assigned to photograph Peter Milliken, the former Speaker of the House of Commons in his office. It was to be a full-crop photo of him standing in front of a white background. At the end of our shoot I had noticed he was standing in front of the iconic Yousef Karsh portrait of Winston Churchill which happened to be photographed in the very same spot I was standing in! In addition the Honorable Speaker was leaning against the same chair and seemed to have a very similar smirk on his face. I managed to get the shot but wished I hadn’t put away my off-camera flash.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
I’m so aware of the impermanence of everything that I think for me, photography is a means of not only expressing myself but also perhaps as a means to stop time or at least to preserve the moment. It is leaving something tangible behind for future generations. I think I’m trying to say that the world is a beautiful place and that there is much that is harmonious.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I’d have to say Annie Leibovitz. I love how her portraits seem to appear so natural and believable for the most part. I also really admire how she weaves her personal work with her commissioned work in her book: “A Photographer’s Life: 1990 – 2005”.
You divide your work between editorial jobs and travel photography. Which one do you like best?
Currently the editorial jobs that I do are commissioned by others whereas travel photography is something I’m embarking on my own. With my editorial work, I have a preconceived idea of what the client is expecting whereas with my travel photography, the agenda is more mine and I’m more free to experiment and go with the flow. I’d have to say though if I didn’t have to work at all and could travel as much as I want, I would probably continue to photograph people, beautiful places and food the way I do for my editorial work.
Let’s talk about your series “Impressions of Paris”. At the beginning of each project one has some kind of idea in mind as to what the result could be like. Sometimes that changes along the way and the result is quite different. Was that the case and if so what did you learn during the project?
In addition to assisting in a photography workshop, my intention was to further develop my “photographic language” as I explored Paris so I really wasn’t invested in a certain outcome. Since I was there for only ten days my pictures could really only be my first impressions of a beautiful and timeless city.
I’ve learned that I enjoy telling a story with my photography and that I would love to go back to Paris and spend more time there. I also learned that photography can deeply touch people in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.
Later you’ve turned “Impressions of Paris” into a book. One thing is having a body of images, and another putting them in order. Can you describe your editing process?
I tend to start with a cup of coffee and some music in the background that reminds me of the place I just visited and work my way through the images that I think are the strongest technically and emotionally. I usually start chronologically but as I become more familiar with the images and the story that is forming, I try to arrange them in a way where each image relates to the other on the spread in terms of lighting, colour, mood, place etc and that there is a flow amongst the pages in the book. My “Impressions of Paris” book was laid out in Lightroom 5 and so it was easy to visualize each spread and to move things around when necessary.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
I’m primarily concerned with my reality and the way I see things. I have a belief that we get more of what we focus on so I tend to focus on what I perceive to be beautiful and harmonious: landscapes, urban scapes, sea scapes, people, dance, moments, etc. And I want my images to be up close, unobtrusive and intimate. As for creative process it really just simply has to do with what I’m experiencing at any given moment. I can’t help but feel creative when I’m traveling.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
I’m still struggling with this myself. I think it is important to notice what feels good to you and what doesn’t when you’re photographing and most importantly to honor that in your self as opposed to trying to mimic someone else’s work.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work - technically and conceptually?
This is probably the easiest to answer. Conceptually it is reality based. Technically, I generally prefer colour to a black and white photography. However, when the colours don’t quite compliment each other, black and white can save the day. I tend to use a light hand in post production because as I mentioned before, I like my images to be believable.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
I think a good photographer needs to have either good observation skills and/or a good imagination. It also helps to be personable.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
I find this question to be quite subjective, however for me a good photograph is one that evokes a feeling of some sort - preferably one that is expansive or contemplative. Good composition, lighting and colour usually help in communicating that feeling.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I’m often inspired by art in the Museums. I’m especially drawn to Impressionist art – reality based scenes depicted softly. When I was in Paris I visited the Musee D’Orsay and was struck by Monet’s Magpie (winter scene) and Degas Dancer sculpture.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I’m shooting with a Nikon D800 and have an assortment of lenses. I think my favorites are the 50 1.8 and the 28 1.8 but am wondering if I could get away with a good 35 mm 1.4. I use Lightroom 5 for post-production and print with my Epson 3800. I especially like printing on Epson’s Exhibition Fibre papers.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
There are so many great websites about photography and I’m currently enjoying Zack Arias’ real answers to real questions on photography: “Photography Q&A: Ask Me Anything About Photography”.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever. It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.
What photography book would you recommend?
I’m really enjoying “The Art of Photography” by Bruce Barnbaum. He teaches that photographers look for relationships; snap shooters look for things. This was a most profound lesson for me.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
Don’t unless you have an absolute love and passion for it to the exclusion of anything else. One could still be a photographer without earning a living from it.
More about Dyanne Wilson
Check out my photography podcast – conversations with inspiring street photographers from around the globe sharing their secrets for creating amazing images. It’s mostly in German, but here are some episodes in English:
Valerie Jardin: “Street Photography – Creative Vision Behind The Lens”
Dmitry Stepanenko: “Heavy Color” Street Photography
Jason Koxvold: “Knives” – Left Behind In Rural America”
Luc Kordas: Loneliness In New York