This episode follows Dan Gaba as he takes photographs of unsuspecting passers-by in the streets of Brixton.
1.How did you get into photography and how long have you been doing it?
I remember my Mom always had a simple camera: a Kodak Disc, 110 cameras, disposable, polaroids. My Mom told me stories about my Great Aunt Agnes who took photos during WWII, in the Pacific. Aunt Agnes was divorced, wore trousers and smoked cigarettes and volunteered for the War. She was 40 years old before she ever really picked up a camera. She liked shooting and really loved the darkroom. She met my Uncle James “Danny” Daniels in the War. He was 20, she was 40, they fell in love, it was a scandal, they got married, they wanted kids but never had them. I’m named after them.
My Dad always had a nice Nikon. My brothers, who are twins, had twin Nikons and an enlarger. My sister Beth had a Canon and my other sister, Sarah, I don’t remember her taking photos. I would borrow anybody’s camera but I was always intimidated by the fancy ones that had settings. I didn’t think I was smart enough to use them and I was too embarrassed to ask questions. I don’t remember anybody around me really liking to have their picture taken either, including me, so I didn’t take many pix of people. I would get discouraged and frustrated trying figure out what to shoot and how to shoot it. I would only use auto settings and I would only use a camera every once in a while, when nobody was looking. Then I moved to New York City and got a job at The New York Times as a clerk. I clerked all around the newspaper at the various desks: making copies, putting type into slots and making it fit, answering the phones…whatever they needed. Then, I started clerking in the Photo Department, they liked me I liked them so I worked there for a long times. Working on obituary photo research, answering the phones, helping put assignments into the system, riding the elevators all night running hand cropped paper photocopies of photos from the Photo Editors on the desks to the Art Department for production. I liked the Photo Department and the obit research could be really fascinating, but I reckoned I was only good enough to answer the phones, I never thought I could do what the Photographers or Photo Editors did, so I never even tried.
Then one of the freelance Photo Editors went on to become the head of the Photo Department and asked me to become a Photo Editor at The Wall Street Journal, so I took him up on it. Then, I got married and that didn’t work out and I started drinking a lot and well that didn’t work out either and all of it came to a head at the same time and I was really sad. I got to the point that I was really tired of being sad all the time and so I decided to try and look at something that didn’t make me sad to make something that didn’t make me sad. I looked at Instagram a bit and had some people like my photos including people at work. It was nice to have positive feedback at such a dark time. So, when I was really low and not because I thought I was any good at it but because it was so accessible with my phone and with Instagram, I decided I was going to take all the negative energy in my life and I was going to do something in spite of it; I was going to make a picture…because I really wanted and I really needed to see something good.
Honestly, it wasn’t as sad as this story sounds, although in looking at what I just wrote, it sounds kinda sad. That’s how I started taking photos. I live in London now, still with The Wall Street Journal and I still take pix of my day, everyday. I use any camera I can get my hands on: my phone, your phone, point and shoots, digital, 35mm, 120…I use fancy cameras, cheap simple cameras. I even have one of my Aunt Agnes’ cameras, I’ve never shot it, but I worked on it and it should be ready to go. I like cameras, learning how they work and asking questions and I like taking pictures now, especially of people. I’ve let myself. So…that’s a long answer but let’s say…five years…ish? Five years, been shooting for about five years.
2.Can you describe your Scenario experience in THREE words… It. Was. Fun.
3.Could you update us on your work/project since we recorded your episode?
Well, apparently I’m not happy taking photos unless I’m frustrated trying to figure out why my photos aren’t working or why I can’t figure out how to use my latest camera. So, very happy taking photos and pushing myself to take a good picture today. No projects at the moment, just pushing further with digital and pushing further with film. I’m thinking of developing my own film seeing how I like that. Shooting, shooting, shooting, I’m either shooting or figuring out when and what and how to shoot next.