Photographer Profile: Peter Dawson

“Trust my instincts and creative voice, and keep it simple, positive and joyful.”

 

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When asked about the start of his career, Peter Dawson states:

“I was the designated family road trip photographer starting at around grade 4. My father handed me his manual Ricoh and showed me how to focus and read the internal light meter and I took it from there. We road tripped all over the West, and that is how I first learned to see natural light, and appreciate form and composition.  It also served to plant seeds of some of the more thematic aspects of my images: mystery, beauty, and wonder.

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Fast forwarding to my college years, I was originally a pre-med student in Seattle but always maintained photography as a hobby.  I was an avid hiker and snowboarder, so was constantly toting my camera to the mountains to photograph the landscape and outdoor lifestyle. After two years of studying science, I was burned out and decided to enroll at Brooks Institute of Photography for a change and to explore the more creative side of my make-up. I finished my degree in photography at Brooks and immediately pursued assisting opportunities in Los Angeles.  Before graduating I also Interned at an Ad Agency in LA with an Art Buyer, which was so valuable to see how photography is viewed from the buyer’s side, and the inner workings of an agency.

I was a horrible photo assistant! There were a few photographers who kept me on as a third assistant, but I just wasn’t handy enough with rigging, and all the different types of equipment that I hadn’t been exposed to yet.  I learned what I needed to about the industry (how an advertising shoot works, how the photographer interacts with everyone on set, etc.) and then started pursuing my own assignments.

I slowly gained a few editorial clients and music industry clients, then began showing my work at ad agencies.  Many Art Buyers loved my landscape photography and encouraged me to shoot cars as a natural fit for my aesthetic in the advertising world.  I followed their advice and developed a car and landscape portfolio, gained some editorial clients, and then moved into advertising.  I now have a diverse group of clients in advertising and editorial, shooting cars, people, and location-based conceptual work, and have representation with Anderson Hopkins in NYC.

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For me, I honestly can’t point to one moment. It has been a steady climb of very hard work, risk, generous help and interest from others, artistic development, and business skill development.  It’s truly a marathon, and each press of the shutter or hand-shake is another step. I still have much to learn and am excited to keep going!

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I learned much of the technical side of photography in school to where it is now second nature.  The greatest way I have found to learn technique is to simply look at a lot of photography.  Find aspects of an image that I am drawn to, dissect how it was made, and apply it to my own vision.

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My photo heroes actually aren’t photographers, but people in different disciplines who see the world in a unique way, and in a way that I connect with. Examples would be Terrence Malick, Sergio Leone, CS Lewis, Albert Bierstadt, Lewis and Clark, Henryck Gorecki, and many others.”

Like any career, the job has it’s ups and downs. Dawson discusses his favorite, and least favorite part of being a photographer.

“I was only half joking with a friend the other day when I said that being a photographer now means 14-hour days in front of a computer!

The freedom, exploration, and creative thought-life. And of course, the people I get to meet and interact with,” says Peter on his favorite aspect of photography.

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When asked why he chooses to shoot with a Hasselblad, Peter states:

“The file size and quality….Especially when shooting for my car clients, they frequently need to do extreme cropping to accommodate very different media layouts from a single page vertical to a billboard horizontal. The file quality and sharpness needs to hold through some pretty adventurous cropping!

I love the H-series lenses.  The 3.5 50mm is my go-to.  Many wide-angle lenses claim to be sharp edge-to-edge, but this is the best one I’ve found.

Long exposure capabilities: I’m frequently shooting long exposures for all kinds of reasons…low lighting, night images, motion blur for cars, rig shots of cars, light streaks, water blur in my landscapes, etc.  The image quality at long exposures is way better then any 35mm dslr, and this may seem small but i love it: easy mirror lock up, and the mirror stays up for sequences of exposures until you press for it to come down again.

The viewfinder is mind-blowing…somehow it looks better than real…it’s difficult to explain but for some reason it’s easier for me to pre-visualize the final image when looking through compared to other cameras.”

See more of Peter Dawson’s work at www.peterdawson.net