Interview with David duChemin

Interview with David duChemin
Interview with David duChemin
David duChemin is a world & humanitarian assignment photographer, best-selling author, and international workshop leader whose adventurous life fuels his fire to create and share. Based in Victoria, Canada, when he's home, David leads a nomadic life chasing compelling images on all 7 continents. When on assignment David creates powerful images that convey the hope and dignity of children, the vulnerable and the oppressed for the international NGO community. When creating the art he so passionately shares, David strives to capture the beauty of the natural world.

David's travel has taken him through winters in Russia and Mongolia, a summer on the Amazon, spending time among nomads in the Indian Himalayan and remote Northern Kenya. He's done assignment work in Ecuador, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Ethiopia, Malawi, DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Bangladesh, among others, and pursued personal work in places like Iceland, Antarctica, Tunisia, Cuba, Vietnam, Kenya, and Italy. Drawing on a previous career in comedy, David is a dynamic and engaging itinerant presenter and educator. A driven artist, creative professional, entrepreneur and life-long adventurer, David educates and inspires through stunning visuals and hilarious travel stories, and insights, from a life spent outside and abroad.
David kindly accepted to answer a few questions:

All About Photo: Tell us about your first introduction to photography? Why did you stop your career in comedy?

"I've been a photographer since I was 14 years old, but the idea of doing it professionally didn't appeal to me for very long. In fact I spent some time doing work experience for a photographer in high-school and there was so little actual photographing going on that I decided to keep photography as a passion and a hobby and pursue other things. I left high-school and spent a summer in Peru on the Amazon river, then spent 5 years in theology school, eventually leaving to pursue stand-up comedy which is not the usual path! I did comedy for 12 years, and loved it but eventually was pulled back into photography, specifically humanitarian work, after a trip to Haiti."

David duChemin

© David duChemin

David duChemin

© David duChemin

AAP: When did you decide to become a photographer and more precisely to become a voice for the oppressed?

"During my trip to Haiti it became clear to me that my cameras could be more than a hobby to me, that they could tell stories and that time in Haiti showed me what stories I wanted to tell. I've always felt it was a responsibility to leave the world a better place when I eventually leave. This is one way for me to do that."

AAP: Do you think that a picture can be an antidote to injustice?

"I don't. But I think it can be a part of the process. I think it's important that we be empathetic and photographs can do that when made well. I also think it's important that we bear witness to injustice and express solidarity with the victims of injustice, and photography can do those things. It can also witness to dignity, beauty, and hope, and those are the things we fight for when we fight against injustice."

David duChemin

© David duChemin

David duChemin

© David duChemin

David duChemin

© David duChemin

David duChemin

© David duChemin

AAP: Being a witness of difficult situations, how do you manage to cope with your memories?

"Suffering rarely happens in a context that is completely devoid of hope and when it does - for example the genocide in Rwanda - those are not the stories I tell. I am not a reporter. So while I've seen some very difficult things I have not had to tell the darker stories that people like Jame Natchwey has made a career of so faithfully telling. I cope the way anyone does: shed some tears, do some work, and connect with the people I work with - they're like all of us - they laugh and carry on in tough circumstances and they've taught me to do the same."

AAP: You have traveled in many countries, is there one that marked you more than others?

"In different ways they all do, but my work in northern Kenya is the work I am most proud of. That work has happened over the course of 10 years so the connections and relationships I've made, the changes I have seen, have struck me deeper than others, I think. The context of that work is with nomadic pastoralists in some of the driest, harshest, and inhospitable places on the planet, and they've taught me much about creativity, strength, and perseverance."

David duChemin

© David duChemin

AAP: What was your biggest challenge so far? What is your worst souvenir?

"I fell of a 10 meter wall in Italy 8 years ago and shattered both my feet while photographing. I'll never walk the same way again and it has limited what I do. But it's also opened new opportunities, like pushing me to SCUBA diving. My work underwater brings me such joy that it's hard not to be grateful."

AAP: Do you travel alone?

"Rarely. I like company and usually need someone there to help with logistics. I usually travel with my best friend Corwin, who is also my manager and producer, or with my wife Cynthia. I don't like groups but I like the company of someone I can laugh with and talk to."

AAP: What equipment do you use?

"For my travel work it's usually a couple Fuji X-T2 bodies and a couple lenses. I also have a Leica Q that I love. For underwater work I use a Nikon D800 and D5. Gear is important but I'm relatively apathetic towards which brands are out there. If it feels good in my hands and does what I need it to do, I'm happy to use it. After over 30 years I've used them all and discovered that really, they're all pretty much the same. No one looks at my work and thinks, Oh this one was made with a Canon, this was when he was shooting Nikon, or this one is an iPhone shot. The creative process and the photograph are what matters to me."

AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your work?

"If by "editing" you mean selecting my images, then yes, and I usually do it several times within a year or two to give myself the best chance at seeing things clearly. If you mean post-production in Lightroom or Photoshop, not really. If I spend 5 minutes on an image that's a lot and it's usually something I've photographed underwater where there's a need to clean up some of the stuff floating in the scene. I try to get my images right in camera, so I don't do much to them afterwards. But that's a preference and some people would still say I do too much work on my images and some people seem to think I hardly touch them. There are no badges of honor for "getting it right in camera." It might mean you're closer to mastering your craft, but again the only thing that matters to me is the final image. Do what you need to do to get there and not violate any ethical standards you maintain."

David duChemin

© David duChemin

David duChemin

© David duChemin

AAP: Some stories work in Black and white others in color, what determines your choice?

"If the colour makes a significant contribution to the image, I often keep it. But if the image is about things best expressed without the seduction or pull of colour then I prefer black and white. It's a preference, I guess. I started with black and white and some of my favourite photographers, like Sebastiao Salgado, work in black and white."

AAP: What makes the difference between a good image and an iconic image?

"That's a huge question that could take a whole book to explain. I think there are many reasons an image can be good, but to be iconic it has to say something that is more universal, that tells a bigger story. An iconic image stands the test of time because it represents something bigger, some larger idea or moment in time."

David duChemin

© David duChemin

AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid?

"Get over the gear as fast as you can. Don't be seduced by it. Stop upgrading the camera and lens every chance you get and instead upgrade the photographer. Do a workshop with someone you respect, someone that will challenge you. Buy books of photographs and study them instead of the popular magazines that are mostly just glossy advertising for more gear you don't need. Learn to compose. Learn to tell a story. Don't worry about the fastest lens or the lightest tripod."

AAP: What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer like you today?

"See the above. Unless you're thinking of doing this professionally in which case forget photography school. Go to business school. Or any other school, for that matter. Learn design or coding or marketing. Photography can be learned without the school but to be a successful working photographer you need business skills."

AAP: You also do workshops, write books, teach... how do you manage to do everything at the same time?

"I think it helps that I have no pets and no kids. But this is my business, and it's what I do, so I schedule my time well and I make use of time other people would spend doing other things. On airplanes and in hotels and airports, I write or work. I split my calendar up very intentionally and I guard my time against waste, like checking email or Facebook every 5 minutes. Time is our most precious resource so I don't waste it. That doesn't mean I always work. I take a nap most days and I read a lot and play guitar. But I'm intentional about it."

David duChemin

© David duChemin

David duChemin

© David duChemin


  David duChemin
David Bailey: SUMO
 
 

More Photography News

News
Book: London
Book: London's Great Theatres by photographer Derry Moore and actor Simon Callow
Londonís Great Theatres offers an intimate look behind the curtains of Londonís iconic theatres, from the West End to Hackney. The acclaimed actor and...
  Read More
News
Photographs Signature Auction in New York
Photographs Signature Auction in New York
A dramatic image of African elephants and baboons could bring $70,000 or more when it crosses the block in Heritage Auctions' Photographs Auction Oct....
  Read More
News
Book: California Trip by Dennis Stock
Book: California Trip by Dennis Stock
In 1968, Magnum photographer Dennis Stock took a freewheeling five-week road trip up and down the California highways, documenting the counterculture...
  Read More
News
What is the impact of modern art on society?
What is the impact of modern art on society?
Being an artist or just an admirer, you may have this thought in your mind: how does art influence today's society and if art can educate the people...
  Read More
News
Announcing the 2019 Inge Morath Awardee and Finalists
Announcing the 2019 Inge Morath Awardee and Finalists
Magnum Foundation and Inge Morath Estate are pleased to announce Alex Potter as the recipient of this year's Inge Morath Award, a $5,000 production...
  Read More
News
Visa pour l
Visa pour l'image, Perpignan 2019
Mexico, Venezuela, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, Bangladesh and Hungary are countries with a sad reputation for violations...
  Read More
News
MYOP in Arles 2019
MYOP in Arles 2019
For the second consecutive year, the photographers of Agence MYOP will occupy an abandoned school in the heart of the old city, ...
  Read More
News
Meet CPA
Meet CPA's New Executive Director Ann Jastrab
This is your opportunity to learn more about the Center for Photographic Art's fabulous new incoming Executive Director, Ann Jastrab! She will recount...
  Read More
News
Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest announces 2019 finalists
Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest announces 2019 finalists
The Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest has published the shortlist of the 2019 winners. The competition jury, which included leading...
  Read More
News
Festival La Gacilly
Festival La Gacilly
Every year, the La Gacilly Photo Festival attracts over 300,000 visitors to Brittany and 200,000 to Baden in Austria. Thanks to its presence in...
  Read More
News
Obsessions: The Magnum Square Print Sale
Obsessions: The Magnum Square Print Sale
The June 2019 Magnum Square Print Sale will see Magnum photographers and estates delve into their archives to select a single image that reflects the...
  Read More
News
Gordon Parks: The Flàvio Story at the Getty
Gordon Parks: The Flàvio Story at the Getty
The J. Paul Getty Museum announces an exhibition of photographs by celebrated artist Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006). On view July 9-November 10,...
  Read More
David Bailey: SUMO
 
Join our newsletter
Be up-to-date with call for entries, deadlines and other news about exhibitions, galleries, publications, & special events
 
Discover the 7th Issue of AAP Magazine
All About Photo Magazine showcases the winners of AAP Magazine Competitions
 
 
 
The Jules Maeght Gallery is a contemporary art gallery who seeks to engage the San Francisco community by infusing European artists, young and established alike, into a diverse, multimedia dialogue.
 
TAKES U TO THE NEXT LEVEL
 
Since 2005, your guide through contemporary art from a French perspective to let you make exciting choices