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Seeing Collective Presence

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Seeing Collective Presence with Daniel J. Gregory

Daniel Gregory, Kenna Klosterman

Seeing Collective Presence

Daniel Gregory, Kenna Klosterman

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Lesson Info

1. Seeing Collective Presence with Daniel J. Gregory

Lesson Info

Seeing Collective Presence with Daniel J. Gregory

and hello, everyone. And welcome to Creativelive. I'm your host, Ken Klosterman. I'm coming to you from my home to yours, to our very special guest today, Daniel Gregory. Off course, This is another episode of our podcast. We are photographers where we take you to again the home studios, living rooms of our favorite photographers, film makers and educators all over the globe. And we talk not necessarily about gear here on this podcast, but about life, the Korean of life and what it means the ups and the downs eso that we all know that we are not alone in this creative journey. Eso if you haven't already be sure to subscribe rate like review. We are photographers wherever it is that you listen to podcasts and we love to hear from you as well as to who you might want tohave on. But if you are tuning in right now, we always love Thio. Do the shout out. So let me know where you're tuning in from whether you're watching on social media or if you are on creativelive dot com slash tv, click o...

n into the chat icon so that I can see you and give you the shout out so dug from Indianapolis, you get the first shout out. All right, everybody. Well, I'm super excited to bring on today's guest. Daniel Gregory is an amazing, fine art photographer and educator. He is also the host of the podcast, the perceptive photographer, which just hit 300 consecutive episodes that we're going to talk about that. So that's super exciting. He lives here on Whidbey Island, which is where I live, so that's super cool. And he is one of our favorite educators on Creative Live. So please help me welcome Daniel Gregory. Oh, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be here. Awesome. Awesome. Well, I wanted to start with again just saying Congratulations on your podcast from one podcaster to another episodes, not just like 300 episodes, but every Monday for 300. Monday's That's correct. That's huge. It is, and it's ah, so weird. I mean, when I started literally, it's just it was started as a journal for me, kind of a, uh, you know, there weren't millions and millions of podcast yet, and I started it, and it was just my creative process and everything. I struggled with every day. And I was like, I'm just gonna do this every week, kinda as a commitment. And then a year went by and then I had 100 episodes. I was like, Wow, that's pretty cool. And we go through that process and it got to be kind of a weird sort of obsession. And, uh, it didn't hit me how important it was until I My little brother, died three years ago unexpectedly, Uh, Eric Aneurysm. And it was one of those weeks when you do podcast, you put a bunch in the can, and then time goes by and then eventually you don't have any. So then you're under the gun to record, and it just It was one of those weeks and my brother passed. We couldn't get a flight for two days, and but I didn't have a podcast for that following Monday, and I was like, uh, do I like, what do I do? But it was so important to me. I just decided to spend that podcast talking about my brother and the loss of my brother. Hold my Monday streak. So I mean, even a to that moment, and I think for me, that was really the big turning point and how important it was to do every week. Because there's a creative person. Life doesn't let you stop like you, you ups and downs and sideways. Like you said, we're all in life together. And so, in some ways, that podcast for that particular episode really hit me that. Wow, this is important, because that is life. And sharing that weekly up and down is really what that podcast got to be about. Because I don't I'm kinda like this one. I don't talk about gear, could care less to talk about gear. And it's just the random stuff in there. And so But that first one that one after my brother were really kind of the two that made it really like, Oh, God, I gotta I gotta keep going. And now it kind of freaks me out of play. Don't have Monday rolls around. I'm like, Oh, my God, it's Monday. I am sorry about the loss of your brother. You know, uh, that, uh, he said Shocking. When? When? Unexpected. Um and so I want to talk about a couple of things, but, you know, family and and the importance of that, like tell me about a little bit about your brother. Other siblings. Tell me about Daniel. Growing up. Um, were you creative child Talk about family? Yes. Oh, my brother was my only brother on. He and I were six years apart. Uh, we were raised in Colorado. I was born in New Mexico. My mom is one of 12, so I've got, like, 120 the extended family on that side. And yeah, it's crazy Family reunions, like you show up and I'm like, Yeah, I don't know any of you, uh, you know, And now might like the people who are my age have kids, and I'm like, Yeah, I don't know them either. Uh, so but my we grew up in Colorado, them and ah, my mom was and dad both creative in different ways, But neither one of them are what we would traditionally think of his creative. They weren't artistic, so But my mom was very great if she baked cakes and all sorts of stuff. And my dad, you know, made woodworking benches and things like that. And and but we were always encouraged to kind of do whatever we want. So, like I think my mom and dad for Christmas, my I was probably seven or eight and I got my first little Kodak 1 10 Instamatic camera kind of thing. And so we're always encouraged toe to be creative. My brother was very creative. He was very in the woodworking and, like, built a boat, built furniture and Dex and just all sorts of stuff. So he was very creative in that regard. Uh, we have no family has always been kind of kind of important for me and my partner, Lori. Uh, and I are family is you know, we have two cats and two dogs, which are very important. Actually. The name of our studio is silly dog studios. So it's actually named after Eva our dog. She's the namesake of the studio, so they're really important in that process. But Laurie is a writer and an herbalist and makes all sorts of products of creativity is really kind of at the core of what we dio for us, which it z always cool when you can look back and see that your parents encourage that because that's not, you know, not everybody has that. Um but I'm curious. What, like if there were times when you were like, I don't know about going this on this creative. Well, like you said, everybody is creative. But on the professional photographer journey, like, was there, Tell us about how you got to that. Okay, so I started when I was in college. Actually, I took photography classes and smart classes, and I'm like, Oh, this is it. Like, this is what I wanna do. Wanna be a photographer, And, uh, but then the kind of the reality sort of set in, and it was like, Oh, I probably should get a degree that would let me have a job because I didn't I mean, I didn't come from a family who had that. So I didn't even know, like, how would you become a photographer? And back then, everything was film, and breaking in was really hard. And it was, like, your photojournalist, or you kinda shot weddings like those were the only two things I knew. So I end up getting an English degree, and then I got a master's degree in communication studies. Uh, and after college, I kind of quit taking pictures Totally. I just kind of stopped. So even though I had shot all the way, like through high school and into college and when I just quit when I got a job, worked in the tech sector s I worked in the high tech Microsoft startups. It was the late nineties, early two thousands worked a bunch of startups, and at one of those companies, I was just like right. I was just, you know, working 80 hours a week. And I was like, God, I'm just grinding. I need something else to do. And so I picked up a camera again. I was like, I will just be a creative outlet. I won't have to worry about anything. I'll just do this and really kind of got enamored back with actually the old Film day. So I started shooting large format. So eight by 10, 4 by five the Ansel Adams kind of cameras that most people now we're like, why would you carry around a £40 camera? But I got back into that, so that was really just a creative outlet for me and turns out I really enjoyed it. I kind of had a knack for it. So I just started doing it more and more and more and then kind of serendipitously, I worked for a company and got laid off, and it had been a height. He was for a financial company. I did their marketing in high tech work, and I just I wasn't really hadn't been happy in the corporate world in a long time, so I got laid off. It was, you know, when I live on Whidbey so I gotta take a vote, you know, Plus, into there I got laid off like we walk in the door and the layoffs happened like that morning. It's like seven AM and I'm like, How am I going to get home? Like, I don't even know if there's a way to get home this time of day, you know? But anyway, I took three Busses home get home, and I Lawrie picks me up on the ferry and she says to me, the first thing she says is this is so exciting because now you get to be a photographer full time, and I was like, How am I gonna How are we gonna eat? Like I'm like, still in, like, freak out mode. And she says, No, no, this is it. This is This is the sign. You know, you've been on this precipice for a long time, so let's just go for it. And so she's like, you know, if we have to sell the house, if we have to live in a cardboard box, whatever we dio, we're doing it. So I was like, Okay, so I started thinking about it. I'm like, Okay, I could probably do that. And then I remember calling my dad, telling my dad I got laid off and that I'm gonna make this decision. I'm gonna try to make a living as a photographer, and all my dad says is wow, now you're not moving back home, are you? And I said no and he's like, Oh, then I am 100% behind this. And so at that point that I decided to try photography full time and the other piece in there, That was probably the biggest revelation for me. Waas I associate ID being a photographer with taking photographs exclusively. So if I wasn't taking a photograph, I wasn't a photographer, and at some point just in a conversation with Lauren with a bunch of people, I realized that what I really wanted to do is make a living in photography. And so because I mean behind me, or you could see my bookshelves, I probably have four or 500 photo books. I just love photography. And so I just wanted to be consumed in that creative photographic space, and that really then led me to push a lot into the education. Space is well in the podcasting and all the other stuff I do as well. So that's kind of my serendipitous path Thio getting here. Well, I just I love that lorry just immediately took that as here's your opportunity because, you know, and obviously he was well, but just that is those moments of fear and, you know, could be moments of fear and panic. And yet, when you can flip those thio opportunity and seeing it as you know, oftentimes we see things. If we can negative things that happened in our lives as like Oh, here's an opportunity for growth, transformation, etcetera, etcetera. But it's hard to see in that moment after you've been let go at 7 a.m. I've got to take three Busses to get home. Your dad asking you if you're gonna move home? As you know. But you I want to go back to that, um, seeing that it wasn't just about being a photographer, but about living a life in photography, because I think that will resonate with a lot of listeners out there and let us know if you're listening in the chat room. If it does, do you wanna live a life of photography or be a photographer? And what is more important because I know you talk about you talk about in your podcast about photography being the way that we experience the world. Um, and at least for for you, so can you Can you talk to us a little bit more about that distinction between being a photographer and, ah, life of photography? So the I think the place I would start is there's an amazing quote by Dorothea Lange that zit I have to paraphrase, it's not right in front of me, but it basically says, uh, the camera teaches me to see, and I think a lot of photographers think they it's the other way around, like you see, and then you photograph and so that that quote is always kind of really stuck with me, because the to me, the gift that a photographer gives the world is their unique way of being in the world and their unique way of seen in the world. And all the classes I teach in the workshops and the one I'm doing now the kind of the extended for what I'm doing now is called the Meaningful Image. And it's really about how do we create meaningful photographs and what I tell that I've told that group when I tell people when I teach is the greatest compliment. I think you could give a photographer I learned from Bill Allard. William Albert Allard, the National Geographic photographer, and we were down in New Orleans, photographed. We were actually down in New Orleans, drinking in the spotted cat, but we were down photographing in New Orleans and, ah, I took a photograph and Bill said to me we were just looking at the back of the camera. He's like, Oh, that it's so well seen. I wish I could have seen that. And so it wasn't the statement. I wish I could have taken the photograph. It wasn't the statement. I wish I had that photograph. It was a statement. I wish I had seen that, and that was well seen. And that was really one of the tipping points for me to to realizing, like, Wow, when I look at somebody's photograph, I get to see something I wouldn't have seen before. And then that also explains why two photographers stand side by side and they create two different photographs because we literally don't see the same. And one of the other things that I think makes all art so important is that artists are willing, and photographers I put in that bucket are willing to take the risk to share that experience. So rather than say that I have fear, angst, anger, love, whatever the thing is, or whatever they have in the world, they're willing to say, I'm gonna make this photograph painting, sculpture. I'm gonna put it out in the world for others to judge. And if I've done my job and I put myself into that work and what I truly have seen the felt thought and experienced, we're also then judged, and that's the to me. That's the risk the artist takes where the other people don't so that that that line there is in that. And so in that world of living as photographers, living a life in photography is learning to see the world through the eyes of somebody else through their images, learning to find that shared meaning, shared experience. It also is the chance to realize that we're consumers of everything. And so when I sit down and I look at, I'm getting ready to get a Dina Bills performance review book in I'm So Excited. She's one of my favorite portrait photography, but her books coming in, but to get to sit down and live with that book in that experience, I learned from that, and then that turns into my photography through my experience and so in photography, by looking at photography, looking at cinema, looking at books that becomes a part of how I see. And so to me, it's the recognition of everything is photography, not just the click of the shutter, and and I know where that that notion came from. It was, you know, when you when the Internet got big and we were all trying to figure out how to talk about photographers. People like, Oh, if you're not creating photographs, you're not working and it's, you know, you gotta be clicking the shutter. You got to be making work. Well, the other thing is, I don't work that way. I'm a slow problem. A slow processor for for photography. My current project took the two things I'm kind of working on actively now. They took long time for me to journal about right about think about, experiment with, to get to the point where I'm now creating the work that that actually resonates and that all comes from all of that other consumption over the time I'm so that's them. Well, it's, I mean, and it's quite a process. Um, I'm curious. There's a couple of places I want to go, um, one of which is why you said earlier like, why would you carry around £40 camera? A large format fit, But then also you just mentioned to like long term or projects that you have been have taken a long time to get to where they are. So can you tell us about one of them and the work that has gone into that. You know that might help other people, because it's not just if it's taken journaling and all these things, it's not just the taking oven image. Okay, um, who I remind me taken and given later because I do have something that not taken and made. Yeah, given, Yeah. And so the, uh, the actual relationship with the £40 large format camera and the projects I'm working on today are actually related across a 15 year space. One of the reasons I like to shoot a large format camera and still do. And it's one of the reasons I still do Analog process in the dark room, and it's one of the reasons it takes me a while. The digitally edit is that process requires you to be very present in the moment and so to work with large format camera. You do all the technical stuff to get it set up, and then at some point it's you and the subject and the relationship together to decide when to click the shutter. But it's slow. It takes a little while to get that process set up. That has translated into the notion that if you're the more present you are, the more aware you are of what you're actually photographing, the stronger the connection is. And this used to drive me crazy with portrait photographers because, you know, I would take a workshop to learn. I had to learn lighting. I had learnt posing all that kind of stuff, and I would same light, same cameras, same set up and their portrait were better. We just look at the same model two minutes apart. How are they? Better? And what I realized was they're able to recognize the moment of connection and presence with the with the person they're photographing and that I hadn't acquired that patients yet to figure out what my relationship was to that person. Um, so I took that little piece. Then I took a quote by minor White in which somebody asked Minor. Well, when do you know to push the shutter? Now? Minor white photographed a lot of rocks and trees and inanimate things and minor, so that's really easy. It's when the object of your affection acknowledges your presence. And so when the thing you're photographing tells you it's okay to photograph, that's when you make the photograph eso that large format space of taking a lot of time having to be present, and then these notions of connection drive most of my work. So it's about that connection to the environment. So I don't like to make what I call observational photographs. I want you to feel the wind. I want you to feel like you're stuck in the river. You're stuck in the ocean. Um, so it's a lot of that that component. So the work I'm doing now, one of the projects I'm working on now is that relates to To that is, I'm fascinated with photography and what makes a photograph of photograph and I, in my own psychology have made a couple of assumptions, one of which is that what distinguishes photography from other art forms is one of which is time. So because photography requires a it is bound by time. Now it's either a fraction of a second or an extension of that over a time lapse or, ah, long exposure. But it is it is bound in the physical world by actual time, or a painting is not. The painting is not what happened at this exact second. Now it could be an attempt to replicate that, but it's not. The other piece is that the photography and outside compositing outside anything we would do in the digital space or compositing in the analog space is based on things that exist within the world. So photograph photographer has to photograph the thing that's in front of them. So those two things are really interesting to me. Azaz. The nature of photography. So what I'm playing with now is photographs that are created within camera with pan movement over very small aspects of time. But they create a recognizable thing, but everything else is blurred in the space. And so it's this. How do we build that relationship to time? And so they end up looking sort of in the composition, almost like a Rothko esque painting, where their color swaths of palette with a lot of subtle nuance in them. And the idea is that if you stand in front of these, what will be very large by 60 inch prints, you spend time looking and recognizing the nuance of what's in there by staying more connected to the photographs. That's my kind of one of my big projects that that pulls that stuff together. I want to go further into this the concept of time and presence, because that what you're describing is getting to that moment of presence where there is no time. And so I don't know, just just, um what do you think about this type of work and time in your sort of life approach to life outside of photography? Um, you live on island, Um, you know, no longer in the city like, how do you approach time in your life? So that's a great question, and this is something I still struggle with, and it's and it goes back to What I think a lot of people grapple with is I think we we live in one of three places. I think I think we live in the past with regret. We live in the fear with you in the future with fear, or we live in the now and every time I think about the things that could go wrong, that's a fear based future event. But right now, in the moment, things are good things. Air Great. You and I are having a conversation. I'm not worried about paying the bills, any of that. It's this moment and that when photography works, it puts us in the moment. It doesn't put us into fear or regret, which is where I think a lot of lot of us spend a lot of time. And so to me, the creative act of anything is about removing the past future elements and getting into the moment now and so. Most of the decisions Lori and I have made over the last 67 years have been an attempt to get more now and less out of the fear of the future of the past. And we learned that in weird ways. So my namesake of our studio for silly dog studios is Eva and she got bone cancer Ah, year ago, and bone cancer and dogs. If they don't catch it within the first couple of months, they only have a month. And then they tell you, Oh, if we amputate and you get chemo, you might get a year, maybe a year and a half and well, we dumb looked in and gotten immunotherapy in a bunch of things that will potentially get for a longer life. Now you weigh, have no idea. But she taught me more than anything about now because she came home and once she was off the pain meds in the initial pain of the surgery, she's like, I'm a three legged dog like, uh, there was no, like worry about how am I gonna run at the park? There was no worry about word. My leg go. It was just I'm here today. I'm with my family. I get to chew on my calling with peanut butter. Life is good and that that really cemented for me a year ago. Like, Wow, I live completely in this state of fear and that that permeates everything I dio. And because I'm not a regret person, I don't have a lot of regrets. I just I don't this The past is gone. I always think the future could be dealt with in the past, can't And so my mind's a fear based thing. Anything that paralyzes me. It's out out of fear. But she's really helped me realize, like, Wow, I can hold the moment. I could do a lot, and what came with that was a lot of forgiveness of myself. I find that I found in my own work. And when the work I do with others when I'm entering other people, this is probably one of the biggest things we deal with is we're so hard on ourselves and I always short on my How about I need to create more photographs? I need to print more. You know, I need to do this more. I needed that more when really, what I needed to do is I just need to sit here in the sun and make vitamin D because I'm exhausted. 2020 is a less than fun year, and I didn't get to do a lot of things I wanted to do. But I could go sit outside and I could have my cup of coffee. And every morning I could sit out there with the birds, and for 15 minutes I could give myself being present, and then the day would start. The normal world would follow, but I could give myself that little piece. And so photography for me is that the word I use is attunement. So when I'm president, I get this feeling and I can feel it. It's in the pit of my stomach or the hairs on the back of my neck. Stand up. I'm like, Oh, there's this moment where I feel like I'm really connected to the world And I listened for that in my photography now. So when I know to push the shutter is like, Oh my gosh, I have that butterfly feeling in my stomach That means I'm present enough to recognize that. And then when I edit, when the butterflies come back and when the print goes on the wall, the butterflies come back. And so that's the moment of presence that I get back and with the photograph over and over again. Eso That's the But I Why time I think it's so important is it's in photography. It's helping me stay now so that I don't freak out like I tend to do for the future. You're so like me. E wonder I moved to this island. It because I also have that projection. The fear of the future, more so than, um, you know, thinking about the past and regrets, and that's what causes anxiety and that then you know. But putting yourself in a position where and creating a space where you can allow yourselves those moments of presence, um, makes has made all the difference for me and then that, you know, that influences your work, your art, all of it. At what do you still fear? Um, fear. Great question if, if anything, um, I don't know. I don't know if it's if it's fear, but I do. You know, I do believe in that. You know, it's humanity. We have more in common than we than we than things that are divisive. And I and I worry that I have fear that we will all move into a forward fear state and not recognize how amazing we are today. And we'll make decisions that won't allow us to be in a great position 20 years from now. And I mean, I love the national park system for that reason. Like we have places I could go that Yes, they still have cars. Yes, they have roads. Yes, they have tourist shops. But I can go look and see kind of what the world looked like and was preserved. And so there's some elements that I like about that, Um, I have fears that I won't ever be able to make the kind of artwork that I think I should make. Um, if that's, you know, at the same time, that's a driver, like I'm always trying to make that work. But I worry that what happens if that won't I think my biggest fear, though the one I don't like to talk about, is when I teach photography how to create meaningful work. I talk about voice, vision, signature and style, and those four elements have to come together to really get a signature photograph. Um, and then that is voice, which I define is the thing that you have to say. It was the thing that you are that you have to say, And my biggest fear is I don't have anything to say like That's my paralyzing fear when I like. If I'm not making work, it's because I'm in my fear space. If I don't have anything of value to tell anybody, um, and so Well, I do have some, you know, bigger humanity ones. For me, that's the probably those paralyzing is that I don't have anything valuable and important to say, and yet I look at everything everybody else does, and I think Oh my God, everybody is making this amazing work and they're telling these amazing stories and they're sharing this amazing experience. And I like I know that my fear is irrational, but yet it's my fear, so it's completely rational. But I think that's probably my biggest one is just I don't I don't know what to say and because the other stuff like, you know, like when my brother died, I got no control over that, like none. So I can't be afraid of that because there's nothing I could do about that's literally I have zero but my own creative process. I feel like I do have some control over that. I think that's why that that fear is there is I'll wake up one day and be like, Well, there's I don't have anything to say And it's been bad enough Sometimes I've probably gone, you know, I don't remember how long, but it's probably over a year without making what I would consider significant work, because I was just I was like, I don't know what to do, like I literally had spun myself into a into a tizzy that I couldn't get out of, and that was that was hard and and at the same time I look back at the work I was doing at the time, which seemed stupid, dumb, and it's like, Well, that's actually was continuing to sketch continuing their this that was there. But I just my own brain to shut it down. Bad brain, bad brain. Well, it's I don't think that I mean, fear plays a role in keeping us alive as humans, and yet it can also, you know, spirals out of control. And so that's sort of the balance. And it's like, Okay, recognizing the fears, um, whether that's in life, in your work on thank you for sharing that because I think so many people will resonate with what with the fear of not being able to, Um, I'm not being able to create, but it's really you have thio get past that for me. It's like I'm afraid of not knowing how I'm going to get from a to Z. And therefore I don't even go from a to B um, in terms of taking those those little steps. Um, so coming back to then voice and is there something that was there a moment where you were able to say like, Well, I guess it not that it doesn't matter but like, I've got to just start saying stuff to find that voice again. Or or how do you How did you break through? Ah, year of not feeling like you knew what you were going to say. Um the e think the biggest thing waas and looking at this is where that kind of goes back to that living as a photographer. So I'm looking at lots of other photographs. I realized that one of the hang ups I got was that what I needed to say needed to be unique. And so we live in a world now where everything's everything's been photographed. I mean, we create more photographs in a day than we used to create a year and, you know, billions upon billions upon trillions of photographs get created. There's nothing to vote. There's literally nothing left to photograph. And that was really one of the things that got me stuck. Was like, I've got to go create this unique work, and I would go photograph somewhere and I come back and I'd be like, Yeah, you know, that's you know, that looks like somebody else's photograph, like from just up, you know, I went to body. They photographed rodeo up those of the buildings of body Um and then I played with the Well, I just have to find a unique perspective, point of view where I put the camera. So it was weird angles and weird lenses. And and and then it dawned on me that goes back to that my notion of but it's an angst about humanity, but the belief that we're all connected and that it the unique uniqueness isn't in what was what was photographed. But it's in the sharing of what was seen collectively together, so that you get to see my own take on on that. And that for me was the kind of the thing that spun me out of that was I didn't have to photograph something unique. I just had to photograph my reaction to that, and that goes back to that being present. Like, I have to go now. Stand there and not take a photograph until I figure out what is my relationship to this. What is my experience I'm having here? And what cemented that was I was actually in the Olympic National Park photographing these trees and eight by 10 camera. At that time, it was only about $8 for a sheet of film, So I have the camera set up. I go to photograph the trees mid afternoon so that there's this afternoon breeze that picks up is the temperature. Inversion happens, and then so film goes in. It's about a 42nd exposure and the trees The wind comes down. Trees move. I pulled the film out, Flip the holder, put it in and I blow through. About five sheets of film like The stupid wind is just ruining my photograph. No, no, no. I'm much more verbose and screaming and profane at the time. But then it dawns. I'm like, Well, wait a minute, I'm standing here. The experience is the wind. I'm like, How do I photograph the wind in the trees? And that, for me, was like That's the uniqueness. It wasn't because people have photographed those trees is the Hall of Moss. I mean, it's been photographed hundreds of thousands millions of times, but my experience of what the wind felt like when I stood there and I was like, Oh, That's my that's me. That's my thing. And so it goes back to that being present, and every time now I don't photograph, I'm not present. I could tell you that unequivocally, That's the problem is I am worried about the future. I am worried about camera gear. I'm worried about camera settings. I'm worried about everything but that notion that miner talked about standing there until that thing tells me it's okay to photograph, because I have to really be paying attention to that thing, not anything else. And so that that for me was really the biggest breakthrough. And that's the bar I use now. If I don't have that experience, the photo doesn't work, and it's led me to. When I work with people, I asked them, You know, where was your head when you took the photograph? Like what were you thinking about? And if they're like, Wow, what f stop. I'm like, that's why it doesn't work. I'm like because a technically perfect photograph that Solis, and devoid of any meaning, is boring to look at, but yet a out of focus clergy weird gross photograph that is just compelling for some reason, so it can't be technical, can't. It has to be something else. And I do believe it's that we got access to the moment that presence in the moment photographs and that's what hallmarks great photographs across all of all of history is when that that happened. Couple of things in their First of all, there's this amazing movie from probably 25 30 years ago. I don't know. I have to. You just reminded me of it in terms of How Do You photograph the Wind? And it's this movie about a director filmmaker wanting Thio How doe I film the wind on and How doe I because it's your never It's always What you see is the the reflection of it or not reflection but the it affecting something else versus the wind itself on. So it's just kind of ah, beautiful. You know, you can apply that to other things in life. Anyway, I gotta go find out what that is. Uh, but secondly, uh, your you were talking about the shared experience of an image and so I wanted to ask again. Going back to that taken made given is tell me about the given part of photography for you. Yes, this is something that's been is really relatively new in my orbit of thinking about photography and that on it comes out of I'm I'll be the first to, but I'm a I'm a nerd when it comes to like studying photography. So, like Roland bars camera lucida on Susan Sontag's on photography. All the stuff nobody wants to read about photography because it's Ivory Tower, Esoteric. I love I read it all, Um, and one of things that Santa talks about is the predatory nature of photography. And so, you know, long lenses, you know, metaphorically simulating rifles and guns. And the language photographers picked is predatory. We take, we shoot, we capture. And so I was thinking a lot about that. Like at first I was like Susan Syntex crazy. Then I'm like, actually, you know, we did pick those words and capture. Taken and shoot are a little proper upped. And so I always have kind of held that in the back of my head. And then I got to thinking about that same problem I talked about in I Go, whether it's Joe McNally, Lindsay Adler, Adina Carrie Mae Weems. Pick any one of these great photography does portrait work. I'm like, Why do they make such great portrait? Like, you know, they take these amazing photographs like, How did they do that? So I would go watch and look at videos and you know, the conference talk to them or whatever, and then I realized, like they just have a different They still use the same language. But the language behind their language was just subtly different about the relationship. It's about the acknowledgment, and I was like, Oh, that's really interesting. So I've been processing that little tornado for about four or five years, and what hit me several months ago was the difference between somebody giving you something and you taking it from them. And so if I go up to you and I take something from you, I have, whether it's an aggressive stance or whether you're fine with me taking it. But I still take verse, you acknowledging me and you giving me something because you believe what you're giving me has value. And so in photography. What I realized was that if we're given a portrait, if we're given a photograph that I am the receiver of what that person wants to provide. And if I'm not getting the portrait I want. If I'm not getting the photograph I want, I haven't made the space safe and comfortable enough for that person toe. Have that relationship with me. And so that's onus is on me, then, to continue to build that relationship, to continue toe open myself up, to make myself vulnerable, to share my fear, my angst, whatever it is to make that person comfortable so they can give me what I ultimately want to see in the portrait and it in my head. Flip this. It resolved the predatory question that Sonntag presented, but it also really changed that idea of what photography I think, should be about which is about relationships. It's about my relationship to Iraq, a tree, a person, And do I want to be a person who goes in and takes, owns, dominates or do I want to be a person who actually listens to the other person? And I think when we listen, that's when we're given things and so to me that that's the flip there is is I wanna be given something that somebody trust me enough to reveal about who they are, what they are, and that's what could make The portrait photograph uniquely mine is that it's my relationship to that thing, but I want them to give it to me. And so that whole minor san tag portrait swirl that's that's kind of where I've landed in about the last six months with that, And it's it's been exciting for me because it really like when I look at my own photographs. Now I think about things different and the other thing that's goofily changed, which I thought was weird. But then I talked to some of my mentors, and they're like, No, that's kind of how I've been doing it for my entire life. You're just catching up, which is a good mentor, I guess, um, but the other one is like when I photograph a rock or a tree, I now ask permission to photograph that tree, and then I think that tree when I'm done, and because I do think that whether you believe trees or since she in or not, it's the me getting myself present me saying, I'm president and I'm acknowledging that Can I do this? And the thinking of the time in the presence I got is about my mental state as much as it is whether the tree accepted or not. Now I'm one of those people who believe trees actually have hyper awareness and or, you know, in tune is all living things are so I have that side benefit as well. I think the trees talk to each other and they're like, No, that guy's nice. You could give him a portrait later. It's, you know, it's OK. Have you read the book? The Hidden Life of Trees? I have, Yes, I'm just reading it right now. Yeah, I started. You know that that that one is is great because it's also by somebody who, you know, started off not thinking that and evolving into that, you know, it's a it's a wonderful read. Awesome. I'm excited. Uh, I'm curious about I was going to ask you about because you were talking about portraiture. And first of all, let me take a step back. I love this concept of given with regard Thio photography because I've always talked about and this concept of instead of take its make. So it's making an image with your subject or what have you that it's kind of it is that connection that makes the image, but it's almost it's a step further to be receiving the image, you know, as as a gift. I think it's really beautiful. Um has that and that goes back to like, It's not about the settings or, you know, that technically perfect. Because that's almost, you know, that is a thinking approach versus, you know, a feeling approach. I want to go back to this concept of your your episodes, Uh, and you talked about in that episode, uh, milestones. And you talked about not being somebody. Thio celebrate achievements. Um, and whether that's, you know, big birthdays or, um, or just things in general, big or small milestones. And it made me wonder why you haven't historically celebrated milestones like, Is there something in your past? Um, I e you know, if it is, I haven't thought about what it would be. Laurie loves to celebrate milestones, so we celebrate them because Laurie loves to celebrate milestones on the important killed her. This year. We both turned 50 this year and, like 50 is a big one. I mean, I would have been perfectly happy with a big trip on my 50th birthday and the state of Washington locked down March 13th. My birthday's at the end of March. We were like, Oh, we can't even get food like eso eso that that that was that was part of it. And then I think the other part is just, you know, it is a little like I said, I'm I'm fear based in the future. But I'm also optimistic, based in the future. And so to me, no. When I got my Masters degree, I didn't or, you know, I never walked to the graduation except my high school graduation. I my bachelor's degree, my masters degree. I was like, Well, the degree is done like the experience I've had, the walking doesn't cement anything, doesn't change anything, So I've always just it's always been that way, and I'm not sure what the root of that is. Um, and and it's not that I'm not proud of those achievements, and I'm proud of every gallery opening I'm have. I'm proud of every photograph I have that, you know, is is important to me yourselves or, you know, when I'm I'm proud that I got a master's degree. It's just that actual take mark of celebration, for some reason just just isn't there. And it's It's It is weird. I mean, I mean, I have friends who celebrate like I got to the bottom of a cup of coffee. Let's celebrate, you know? I mean, there, there, everything is a milestone. So yeah, I'm not I'm not sure where that came from. Well, I was because I was thinking about it, and I'm I'm curious. If it's like this, not wanting Thio, pat yourself on the back or not wanting to like if it was thinking that that is a selfish thing to celebrate, Um, and that it's because I I enjoy celebrating things as well, like little things or birthdays or whatever. But sometimes you might feel like, Well, it's I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if it was just like, yeah, it's selfish and that it's not okay to be, I don't know, you know, That could very well be I mean, I there's a lot of in my family. There's some ah, amazing celebrations, and they get together the Fourth of July and do all that kind of stuff. And so I've been around it my whole life. But yeah, I'll have to think about it because it very well could just be It's ah, you know, my brain might be a slippery slope from a little celebration to become an egomaniac, so it could be like it's going to get out of control if I start down the celebration path. Well, that's I mean, and that's the thing. But you acknowledged in this episode that you know that You, I guess tell me about then what? The realization was that it was okay to celebrate achievements or think versus, like, birthday. Yeah, well, it kind of goes back to actually something I did with my little brother was passing. So my brother was Irish whiskey drinker and not a cheap one. So Jamison, 18 was, you know, I think he drank and Middleton and those high end alright, because, well, I came up and help me build my analog dark room. It was the last kind of big brother thing we did together. And to celebrate. Lori was out of town. I bought a bottle of Jameson 18. So we just drank for how we didn't chopper leg off with a power, so I don't know, But, um, so I had a a little bit of that bottle up. So on his birthday, on the anniversary of his death on some of his key milestones in his life, I would drink that Jameson 18. Just think of him, Andi, that's where I kind of started. Really? Like Wow, you know, there's there's something really kind of cool about, you know, celebrating that now. And I think it was the realization that he wasn't there to celebrate it. And so every one of those little milestones every one of those little passings If e don't celebrate those, or if I don't celebrate them with somebody else or talk about them, then you know that opportunity may never be there again. And so the realization that I won't ever have another Jamison with my brother to celebrate something cool in life because that's what we used to do. We used to get on the phone and drink together to celebrate like, hey, raise a glass And you know, this is a cool thing or whatever, and so that I think that's probably a big part of it was realizing that that that is important and that if it's not there and if you don't do it, nobody does, like nobody would raise a glass. People do all my brother's birthday. He was very gregarious and had lots of friends. But the that notion that those little things are important. And then, like I said in the podcast, the other thing that I that I think I started to realize that I've gotten older is you know, recognizing those milestones is not is not ego driven. It is. It is a, uh, recognition of what has happened and the work that's gone in and the accomplishment not a Zygo driven, but really is a celebration of of how cool that is to actually have that happen. And I think about like all the times I've celebrated for other people, when they've gotten accomplishments, have done whatever that there is no different on my own in, and I feel proud of me when I get a print come off the print and I hanging on the wall and I like it. It looks great. I'm excited about that, and, you know, I should be ableto share that until people that other than just, you know, put it out on Instagram and hope. You know, five people like it like, Oh, yea, five people liked it hard to did or whatever we call it on instagram. Uh, I think that's interesting that is tied between, um the the fear of seeming like an egomaniac versus pat yourself on the back and that, like, we don't know. I feel like we don't always celebrate the things that we do achieve in a positive way that allows us Thio, you know, then keep going and be like it's it's great when we do something and can can look back at that and, you know, reflect on the experience and what have you and it's I just feel like we're all like you said earlier, were all our worst self critics were all hard on yourself. You know, whether that's in the past, in the future, I should I should I should, uh, where where? You know, I think just a lot of people can certainly relate to that. Um, I wanted good, because you know that that weird fear ego thing is that I think everybody has I tell my people I work with. You have to find the thing that annoys it more than it annoys you. And so what I've learned with mine is it likes to not hates my fear. Hates to be told that there's something that can't do because it's like paralyzing. Like I could do anything to make you not work. And then I'm so my joke is always like I tell my fear. Like I bet you can't solve for pie. I bet you can't rationalize out what pie actually is. 3.141579 what comes next? And it's like, Oh, I'm gonna go solve for pie And it goes off for a little while and entertains itself with that so that I can actually get some work done. So you just have to find a way toe annoyingly distracted. That's right. And that those are the tweet. Oh, there's a hole that was from the tools. I want to talk just a little bit more, going back to the alternative processes. Um, the You know, a lot of people are finding coming back to film or, um, discovering it for the first time. And you, you we talked about time and the slowing down. But talk to me about that. The nature of you know, just of that type of alternative processes for you. And what that what you've seen in teaching other people that as well, like the joy of these other processes. Eso in the in my world where we have time, uh, and we and then we have the nature of the thing, the index ical nature of photography. The other oddity in me is that I believe the photograph is has materiality as well, and so the actual tangible print is the photograph. When it's digital, it's a digital image. It's not yet, ah thing, and part of that is because it's infinitely malleable. A digital file could be headed over, and once I print it, it's committed. And so that's one of the reasons why I love to teach printing. I want to get people to have that experience of the materiality of holding an object and for all. And that's where a lot of the alternative process comes from is it's the materiality of it. The actual materials themselves were so important to how you imagine the print being because it effects, tone and color and size and all sorts of different elements. And Soto to go pick your paper like I wanted to have this field. I wanted to be a softer paper or a tooth, your paper or brighter white paper. It's all about imagining what that final thing looks like. What does the actual object that's gonna hang on the wall look like? And so we we pick that and then the time to actually coat in the processing world. We've got a coat, the papers. We've got to get out of brush or floated or do whatever we do technique wise. But we actually create the thing that captures the light. Then we put the image on. Then it gets exposed, so everything's just slower. It takes eight minutes, 12 minutes. If you're doing it outside, it might be two or three hours. It gets exposed to sunlight. Then we get the print made and then we decide. Oh, that's not quite right. And we have to go tweak it again and do it again. And it's the same loop, but it's that my hands air in it. My, I'm physically doing something. There's the brush stroke work. So it za mood from completely being detached in some ways in the computer to actually a very hands on process. And when I work with people who come back to whether it's digital printing or analog printing or alternative processing, that experience of actually doing something to create the image is hugely rewarding. Um, and that's the response people get. It's like, Wow, I didn't realize what first I don't know how much work this was to do this, but then they say, Um, I can't believe how much more satisfying it is to actually have something that I've created the hold into touch. I'm in that regard and that's I think that's what a lot of people are returning back to that process. I also think it's why people returning to film in droves is one. It's a different medium. Digital and film are different, so we can't ever get them to be the same. I can pry a coda com preset, but it's not Kodachrome and I can make up black and white analog print. It's different than a platinum print. It's different than a digital print. They're all different, and people are starting to realize that those things are all different. And I also think there's a lot of people who are trying to find a way to get connected back to their work in a non instantaneous way. That instant feedback split decision of good or bad when photography is not about good or bad. It's about an experience we look at, and it's experience we feel. And I mean, I'm social Media is in many ways corrupted our understanding of photography as much as has expanded it because we make a decision on the photograph in less than a quarter of a second. But if you spend time looking at a photograph, you really start to see the nuance in there. And that's the other thing that the all processing world does because you're coding because you're doing this because you're having a look at that thing that you created. You start to look at every little brush, stroke, every little nuance detail. So now you're spending time with the image you're starting to see and understand the photograph better your understanding, your own point of view better so that that is the other thing. I think that comes back. We've removed that instant quarter of a second judgment, and we allow time to come back into the equation so that we can appreciate things on a different level on. I think that's That's the big thing. I see people returning for that. Well, I just I love that thinking about the difference of just working on just all digital all digitally, um, on the computer, the digital camera. What have you is not that that's an invalid way to create and and experience are photography, but it's just different. And it's more the work that you're just describing, even if it's just printing. Your work is, it becomes Mork. I don't want to say craft focused, but there's just a different element of the art form itself. Like you said, the physical is different than the digital. And again, both both valid, just absolutely. You know, it's you know, it's one of things. I tell people that if you want to change your relationship to your digital work, get a walking tablet. I'm like just the experience of using a pen where you feel like your drawer getups antique, where you're actually drawing on the screen fundamentally will change how you know you'll get and you'll be frustrated as all get out for about five days while your hand and brain learn how to do it. But if you stick with it, it fundamentally changes how you edit a photograph. How you approach editing a photograph. How why? Tell me more. I think it's because the experience of it being a pin and we touch on the tablet on the screen where we wanna edit. And so the brain is now not moving a mouse across the screen to make the work. It's actually physically touching the spot on the screen that maps to the keyboard or the tablet that that mapping makes the editing process mawr in our brain. Seymour Um, I don't know if it's a control or if it's just we have a up again, um, or tactical our tactile relationship to it because we're we feel like we're actually touching the point on the screen where we're making the edit versus our hand on the mouse, which is moving the thing around. So there's just something in that in that in that world, the other piece with the digital print, even if it's a digital print or a c print you get from some company. The other piece that printing does and I is it makes you commit to the work. The thing I hear two people complain about printing. They complain about cost, and I'm like, Okay, so it costs, like $2 to get an eight by 10 made. And you just spent $26,000 on a whole new Sony system, like really? So it can't be cost because photographers waste money like nobody does. But the other one, I realized, is when we print and we put it on the wall, we've made a statement that we believe that is at a state of being completed, and now all sins are revealed because it is in the computer. I could still change it, but as soon as I put it to paper, it can't. And so now I can add it in print and red and reprinted do that whole loop. But I do think in a lot of photographers there is that sense of of Well, if I commit and I say it's finished and people don't like it or I don't like it, what does that actually mean? Um and then the other one is that I always laugh about is when we print things and put them on the wall. We see different, you'll see every problem you have. You'll see everything great in the photograph. And the other one is. I've never known anybody to get excited when somebody says, Hey, let me show you this, you know, on my phone, let me show you this photograph. They're like, Oh, that's pretty cool. Or if you hand them a print and then it goes on the wall and then they live with that and they have that experience over and over again that is fundamentally different. Like you said, it's not better or worse, It's just different. And why not give yourself the opportunity to have both experiences? I mean, that's to me. Live with the prints, see what it looks like. You might find out you you love Prince. You love printing. They in. It makes a huge difference in how you see, see work and looking for photographs. Um, yeah, different. You walk into museums now you see digital installations, but we we visually associate to those differently than we do a photo book or a photo print or or something like that. Do you equate yourself worth with your prince? I would like to say no, I don't. I would like Thio. Ah, but I I I am very attached into the my my print work on die Do believe that, you know, part of the selection curation editing process speaks to who I really speaks to who I am because when I goto by the time I made the decision to print and particularly print large, I've now made the decision of I've called selected, edited, done the best I can and now printed it that if that's not if that ultimately, the final print of that doesn't meet the bar. Yeah, I really like something's gone way, Way wrong. So yeah, I would love to believe I'm I'm above that. But no, I'm definitely in that bottom of that trough and that, and that's why we do what we do because we value it, you know? And, um Daniel, it's been such a pleasure. Thio have this conversation. I mean, you listen to your podcast and, uh, the perceptive photographer, and it's just you're just constantly you are full of insight and thoughts around this life that so many of us love to live in the world of photography. Eso let everybody know where they confined. You follow. You subscribe to the podcast, all of that. So the podcast is the perceptive photographer podcast, and it's up on all the major podcast platforms. You just find it there. My website is Daniel J. Gregory dot com, and you can get podcasts and newsletter and workshop information there and on pretty much any more on social media. It's Dan Greg Photo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. It's all all their and my of the other website. We do have a silly dog studios art. I mean, that's where all of our herbal products and stuff live up there as well. So that's kind of the the world we live in. A there for Lori and I in our little studio, which I can highly recommend and vouch for. I use this, uh, this hand lotion bar that lorry makes like every day. That smells good. Yeah. No, she's, uh, she's crazy with that. She's kind of like me. She's a single plant you respect with the plant offers how the plant works, and so, yeah, we're good peas in a pod in that regard. I love it. I love it Well, What a pleasure. I wanted to give some shout outs before we sign off. We had dug from Indianapolis, Margie from Columbia, South Carolina. Rome, Pleasanton, California, Lima, Peru, Utah, Northern Ireland, the Caribbean and Campo Grande, Brazil. So thank you, Thio. Everybody who's tuning in from all over the world. We are all in this life of photography and creativity together eso everyone again. If you haven't already, you can subscribe, rate and review Our podcast were photographers again wherever it is that you get your streams and podcast and we highly encourage you to check out what else is coming up here on creative live TV as we are always playing something new and live live interviews, performances, all kinds of things to keep us all connected, so signing off. But once again Thank you so much, Thio Daniel Gregory And we will see you all next time

Class Description


Our weekly audio podcast We Are Photographers brings you true stories from behind the lens and behind the lives of your favorite photographers, filmmakers, and creative industry game-changers. From their struggles to their wins, host Kenna Klosterman discovers the real human stories about why they do what they do.

Listen to this and other audio episodes on our audio Podcast page.


In this episode, Daniel shares the elements of making meaningful work - voice, vision, signature and style. You'll find out how and why creativity is at the core of everything Daniel spends his time doing. We discuss the difference between living a life of photography and living as a photographer. We explore Dorthea Lange's wise words, "The camera teaches me to see" and how large format, alternative processes, and the darkroom allow an exploration of time. Daniel explains that when photography works, it puts us in the present - out of the regret of the past or fear of the future. You may begin to recognize a photograph as a relationship, something that is given to you not taken by you.


Daniel J Gregory is a photographer, mentor, and photo educator based just outside the town of Langley on Whidbey Island, Wa. He is a member of the core faculty at the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, Wa, where he teaches various photographic subjects, including fine art printing, color concepts and theory, portfolio creation, Photoshop, Lightroom, and a variety of analog photography courses. He has also taught classes for CreativeLive, KelbyOne, and has been a featured instructor at both regional and national conferences.

Daniel has always been interested in how photography helps us see, listen, and experience the world. His work explores the importance of developing meaningful connections to a place, person, or environment. These connections extend beyond just the work behind the camera or location but drive his decision methods and approach to the final print. Daniel views the photographic process as a collaboration between the subject, photographer, viewer, and the final print. Each one of these collaborators brings a part of the experience of seeing and immersing themselves in the work.

Daniel is also the host of the Perceptive Photographer podcast that focuses on the creative aspect and internal struggles photographers face creating meaningful work.


Michael Rayment

I love the work of Daniel Gregory and I own all his Creativelive classes. I find him inspirational and has helped me to return to analogue photography. This video is another example of his insight that makes me rethink the negative head space I find myself in at times. Thanks Daniel. You have no idea the difference you have made to my photography.