“When I carry a camera I feel emboldened to explore my surroundings and go places I would not otherwise go.”
David Pace (born 1951 in San Jose, California) is a documentary photographer from the USA.
He holds a MFA from San Jose State University.
“Since 2007 I have been photographing in the West African country of Burkina Faso.
I have lived for two months each year in Bereba, a remote village without electricity or running water.
My goal is to create a visual record of life in the village over an extended period of time.”
Interview with David Pace
David, why did you become a photographer? And what does photography mean to you?
I received my first camera – a plastic Kodak Brownie – on my 8th birthday in 1959. I began taking portraits of my family and friends that day.
Photography has always been my way of recording memories and learning about the world.
When I carry a camera I feel emboldened to explore my surroundings and go places I would not otherwise go.
A photographer has many “tools” at hand to bring across his message: lenses, lighting, framing, color treatment etc. Can you elaborate a little bit on the techniques you used for this particular project in order to link form and content?
I have used many different cameras and employed many different styles over the years. All of my projects begin with a question or a concept I want to explore.
I try to choose my equipment according to the challenges the project presents. I have used a 4×5 and studio strobes when necessary and switched to 35mm when the need arises.
My goal is always to capture the highest quality image possible but have the flexibility to meet any challenge a project might present.
In other words: How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
When I began photographing in Burkina Faso, I was shooting 35mm black and white film for my “serious” work and using a digital SLR to take snapshots to share with my family.
But I soon realized that the color digital images told more of the story and captured my experience more vividly than the black and white.
The ability to quickly change ISO with the digital camera allowed me to photograph in situations where the lighting was changing dramatically from moment to moment.
I rarely know in advance what I will photograph. I only know where I will go. So I need to be able to react to what I find.
My approach is very straightforward. I try to engage with the people I photograph and let the image be a result of our interaction.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Many photographers have inspired and influenced me. But August Sander has been the important.
Stylistically, I appreciate his direct approach to portraiture, his sense of composition and the quality of light in all of his work.
Conceptually, his typological approach and his lifelong commitment to one major project have impressed me greatly.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
My favorite quote comes from my friend Warren B. Sare, one of the best African photographers working in Burkina Faso today.
He has said:
“To be a photographer is to be a witness to one’s time.”
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
My camera equipment is pretty simple. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24 -70mm zoom lens.
I use a Canon 580EX II flash for all of my night work.
I carry a lot of spare batteries and several portable hard drives to back up my files.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
There are many wonderful photography websites.
Two of my favorite are lensculture and aCurator.com.
What book about photography would you recommend?
I would recommend Roland Barthes’ book “Camera Lucida”.
It is full of very thoughtful reflections on why certain images fascinate us.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get started with photography?
“Learning to use a camera is like learning to play a musical instrument.”
My advice to someone who wants to get started with photography is to pay attention to the quality of light and know your equipment. Learning to use a camera is like learning to play a musical instrument.
It should become so familiar that you don’t have to think about it.
Try to see every picture in your mind before you snap the shutter.
The camera is just an extension of your vision.
For some further reading I recommend this article in “The New Yorker”: Dance, Burkina Faso