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The Misfit

January 4, 2010

This photo sums up my entire life.

It does. It really does.

I don’t think I’ve ever fit in, and if this isn’t proof enough, I’m not sure what is.

First, this “peacock” hairstyle. I don’t recommend it. Sure, it might seem fun and dashing, but the reality is this style is a “red” haircut, meaning it takes more energy to produce than what you get from the actual thrill of wearing it.

Second, the outfit. Clearly my fashion sense never left the Indiana swampland. And to add insult to injury, I still have those same clothes, and still wear them from time to time.

Also, the fanny pack, bum bag, whatever you want to call it. No sane photographer would be caught dead in one of these, and yet I found a way to wear it in high-noon light, on the beach, in public, amid thousands of people who are mostly doing nothing other than “people watching” and making fun of people wearing stupid outfits. And for the slam dunk, I use the shoulder sling bag as well, just to emphasize my suspect attire choices.

I can’t remember what I was carrying in those bags, perhaps a roll of film or two, yo-yo, maybe a coloring book, but combined together, they complete my stunning get up. I dare you to follow me.

And the tripod…yes, I admit, I do use them from time to time, but it is RARE. This photo might be worth something. Probably not.

But perhaps most importantly, for those of you out there with a penchant for pushing the button, there is a lesson to be learned here. If you find yourself surrounded by a sea of conformity, it doesn’t mean you have to join the ranks. It’s okay to feel around in the dark, or the blazing sun, and find your OWN path. I’ve never quite understood this photographic lifestyle. I mean I do and I don’t. If you and I have the same camera, same lens, same vantage point, and same editorial choices, then what value does the image have. Jesus, did I just create a word problem? I detested those in school, and don’t think I ever got a single one correct.

“If Billy and Jane both left Anaheim on the 7:15 train, and Jane hadn’t slept the night before, but Billy blacked out at 3am from blunt head trauma, which traveler will arrive more refreshed?”Please show your work.

I could never wrap my head around these things, and my answer of “Ah, I wouldn’t know, I prefer air travel,” was never on the multiple choice options.

I remember when this was now, it was 2006, and I had dedicated my time there to making a very specific style of image, one that had no real home in the world in which the material was made. Does that make sense? What I mean is, I had a vision for what that place meant to me, and that vision had next to nothing to do with what was “popular photography,” regarding an event like that. The images I made were strictly made to satisfy some inner need I had to record this place in a certain way, with no real idea of where these images would live.

But, to end this post on a nice upbeat jingle, I’ll leave you with another image, an image of two of the photographs I made during that time, which are now framed and hanging in the house I am sitting in at this exact moment. The images went on to live in many shapes and forms, but long after the event was over. They were in a book. They were exhibited. They are being considered for another book as we speak. Did these things have to do with who I knew. Yes. In part. Did they have to do with luck. Yes, in part. But I think the most important thing was taking a chance and making the pictures I knew I needed to make and not what the industry might want me to make. And to also not get swayed by the “right now” mentally that is pervasive today, to slow down and look at what the life of an image might be, or could be, if it were different, unique or recognizable.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2010 7:45 pm

    Hi Dan … I practically fell out of my chair looking at that image … thanks for the lift this morning! BTW … when you say “But I think the most important thing was taking a chance and making the pictures I knew I needed to make and not what the industry might want me to make.” you’re not talking about the surf photography industry are you??? And if so you really would need one of those fancy white lenses … right?

    • January 5, 2010 12:18 am


      Well, I tell ya, there are some wicked good shooters in the surf world. Really, some unique characters who have some of the most impressive archives of any photographers I have ever met. But, there is also a lot of conformity, especially when autofocus and digital came along. And now video is smothering that world. I know why people do it, but I fear it will only be more and more difficult to survive by shooting that standard stuff. Too many folks doing it.

  2. January 4, 2010 7:58 pm

    such a fantastic picture. hooray for geeks.

  3. January 4, 2010 8:05 pm

    I’ve been thinking this a lot lately, cramming into small photo pits, slamming out the same headshot, 3/4, full length.

    • January 5, 2010 12:15 am

      Hey Ben,

      It’s easy to do, to fall into that realm. I’ve done it, but my goal is to never do it again. I want my own realm. With a quadraphonic blaupunkt.

  4. January 5, 2010 12:25 am

    HA! That’s so awesome.

    Dec of ’06? I bet I was within 50′ of you, unless I was out shooting in the water, as those were the days when I still had the delusion of making a living as a full time freelance surf photog. Where was my head back then? That place is still one of my favorite places on the planet to shoot. Dangerous as all hell in the water but there’s a quality to the light during the December circus that I haven’t found anywhere else.

    • January 5, 2010 12:51 am

      I figure there are a few photographers who read this that were there as well! I miss going over there. My second year in a row NOT to go after about ten years straight.

  5. January 5, 2010 6:16 am

    Great shot! Did Amy take that with her Canon?!? What were you shooting there on the beach?

    Anyway, Happy New Year!


  6. January 5, 2010 6:33 am

    It was shot with a Canon but not by Amy. I was looking for the Hawaiian Tropic girls. No luck.

    Happy New Year to you too.


  7. David Wissinger permalink
    January 6, 2010 8:08 pm

    Dan, I gotta say you’re looking a little insecure among all those giant lenses. But you shouldn’t, because all of those folks are just overcompensating for something.

  8. John Philpin permalink
    April 22, 2010 2:14 am

    Nice blog Daniel – and this post definitely caught my eye – twice in two days that the importance of ‘difference’ has popped up on my radar – enjoy :

    • April 22, 2010 2:25 am

      Hey John,

      Thanks for saying that. Sometimes being the square peg is a fun thing. I think the key is just making unique content in an age of generic mass.

  9. May 30, 2010 1:51 am

    I must admit, I hate bandwagons. Human nature is split down the middle, there are those who see a bandwagon and think “oh good, a sure-fire way to be accepted by everyone else!” …and those who see a bandwagon and think *insert barfing noise here*

    Hate to say it, but Canon cameras are a bandwagon. Yep, they have been the best system in the past, and have aspects that still reign supreme. So fanboys, shut up. NOBODY can deny the probable fact that that as many as 50% of Canon shooters only bought a Canon because everybody else had one.

    Film, believe it or not, is becoming a bandwagon too these days. Beginners grab their first DSLR, take 100,000 pictures, and discover that the bulk of their work looks eerily similar to everyone else’s. So they look to externalize the blame for this, and pursue new (or in this case, “oldschool”) technical, equipment-based remedies. When in fact their composition, timing, or sense of LIGHT are still the same as before.

    I must admit that fashion in general is one bandwagon I am a little self-conscious about, and so I’ve taken the hints from my wife and gotten a haircut, bought certain clothes, and so on and so forth. But mostly just to get people off my back, so I can focus my energy on other things.

    But either way, KUDOS for plopping down your Hassy in the midsts of that while lens ocean. I hope you turned some heads.


  10. June 12, 2010 5:41 pm

    I was surprised that you didn’t mention “manual film camera with waist level finder” as one of your items that caused you to stick out. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me too much though because the camera is probably such a part of yourself that you don’t even see it as awkward in any way. I’m really enjoying your blog and all the encouraging words and great images.

  11. June 13, 2010 11:18 pm

    I have to say, I think the outfit is very fitting to the scene. 🙂

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