“I am very instinctual as a photographer, often guided by how I feel about a scene or subject. If my heart is pounding out of my chest, it’s probably an indication that I really need to put the camera to my eye.”
Dana Barsuhn (born in 1976) is a street photographer currently based in Los Angeles, California (USA). He’s self-taught for the most part, just took a few night classes at the Art Center College of Design a few years back.
Dana discovered his love for seeing and capturing the decisive moment some eight years ago while on a road trip up the West Coast. While fascinated with the visual beauty of the coastal communities, he often found himself drawn to include people in the frame of his viewfinder.
Now married and living in the Los Angeles area, Dana continues to use his gift to serve clients as well as pursue his own personal work. In his spare time, you can often find him walking the streets of Los Angeles capturing life in black and white. With a love for the artistic process, Dana continues to pursue his work in the analog format.
To serve communities with a passionate eye, continuing to share and communicate my vision through creative content.
Interview with Dana Barsuhn
Dana, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
I purchased a Fuji 4.3 megapixel camera in the summer of 2000 to document my internship while in Seattle, Washington. But my first real photographic experience was a road trip that I took in 2005. I went all the way up the West Coast, visiting most of the western states with my shiny new Nikon D70.
Why did you become a photographer?
Truth is that when I was younger I didn’t see the point in still pictures. I always figured video was a more viable medium. So in that respect, photography found me, not the other way around. Now, photography is the “one thing” that I do each and every day without even thinking.
What does photography mean to you?
I see photography as more than just a job or a hobby. I like to look at it as more of an obligation (in a good way). At the end of the day, it’s my way to be of service. Whether that be for a client or just out documenting the world around me. It’s my way to share my gift with others.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
As far as photography influences and inspirations, I have always mentioned the name Stanko Abadzic. He is a Croatian photographer that I discovered a few years back that has many of the attributes of an Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliot Erwitt. He has some amazing light and shadow work, but also some amazing images of the human condition, people being people. The fascinating exclamation point to his work is that he didn’t start taking his art seriously until he was middle-aged!
Lately I have been exploring a lot of photo books, enjoying work from Bruce Davidson, Alex Web, Bruce Gilden and Leonard Freed.
Your favorite photography quote?
“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.”
“One on One” with Steve McCurry: Interviewed by Riz Khan, Steve McCurry talks about documenting humanity in times of war and peace.
“The definition of a great picture is one that stays with you, one that you can’t forget. It doesn’t have to be technically good at all.”
How would you describe your photographic language?
I am very instinctual as a photographer, often guided by how I feel about a scene or subject. If my heart is pounding out of my chest, it’s probably an indication that I really need to put the camera to my eye. As far as a creative process, I am often shooting with multiple projects in mind, that way not limiting myself to finding a certain subject matter. I find this works well when you have no idea what you will come across in a day.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
By getting off the computer and getting out into the world. Style has nothing to do with a Photoshop or darkroom technique. Rather, it’s a thread that ties your images together over time.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
For the most part, I keep it simple: one camera, one lens. I shoot mostly with black and white film. I love the 35mm focal length because it forces me to get closer to subjects while still being able to frame background elements that complement the subject matter. Lately my photos have been loosely labeled as soulful and gritty, and that’s fine with me!
What qualities does a good photographer need?
I will let you know when I feel as though I have become a good one!
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
There are so many people out there that can take technically good images, but for me a photograph has to say something or stir something up inside. If a photograph leaves an imprint in my memory bank (never mind the subject matter), chances are it is great photograph (in my eyes).
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Again I go back to the get out and shoot strategy. You’re not going to draw inspiration by sitting on your butt. You’re going to find it while you’re out and about. Most of the current projects that I am working on have been inspired from a photograph that I have already taken. For me, staying tuned-in and being mindful of current events is also invaluable.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
For my personal work a Leica M4 with a Zeiss 35mm F2 lens is what I shoot all my personal work with. I also have a Contax T3 that is with me at all times, just in case!
What’s your favorite website on photography?
Been really digging the new and improved Magnum Website lately. And who can deny Eric Kim’s blog, it’s like your one stop shop for anything and everything street photography on the web – the haters can hate, but at the end of the day they are still reading his posts as well! There are few other photo collectives out there that have good content, however, I am finding that a lot of times I am just linking to many of these sites through Facebook and Twitter, rarely am I going straight to a website anymore!
What photography book would you recommend?
Magnum Contact Sheets. A great insight into some of the greatest images ever shot, a great lesson in how many of the masters work a scene to get their epic shots. As a bonus, you get see all of their rejected frames as well!
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
The only difference between an amateur and a professional is that you are now getting paid to take photographs. Hence getting more comfortable with business and marketing.