APR 2017 – FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER
Created by Dave Christensen, Director and Curator of the Harvey Milk Photo Center
Interview with Dwayne Newton
By Dave Christensen, Director & Curator of HMPC
How long have you been involved in photography?
I’ve been involved with photography since April 28, 1975. The Vietnam war was ending, and a broadcast segment covered the role of journalist in reporting the war. I was a child news junkie, read a lot of newspapers and magazines and had witnessed a lot of the upheaval of the 1960’s in San Francisco – the massive protests, riots, bombings. When I saw that broadcast, I said, “that’s what i want to do.” It was almost a 90 degree turn.
What are your motivations in Street Photography?
Only a certain angle of light striking a crystal will refract a rainbow; roaming the streets I look for the intersection of “light and crystal” that is the human rainbow in it’s environs. The precise intersection of light, shadow, colors, shape and movement are fleeting and that “crystal” has to be turned just so to capture the moment. You’re walking along and that “moment” is either happening or about to happen and you must translate what the mind see’s into the camera to capture what you see – vision, light, shadow, tones, time and kinetic subject. Anticipating when the light will strike and create what your mind sees is the thrill of the hunt.
What tools are you using to assist in the creation of these images?
I’ve been turned on to Fujifilm X-pro and Fuji XT-2. Fuji camera technology is just phenomenal. Small fast and capable. I’m not afraid to use zooms at expense of speed. I rarely use tripods, unless I’m doing a commercial shoot, having trained myself to handhold at slow speeds shooting Kodachrome 64 and Fujichrome 50.
What other photographers inspire you?
Henry Cartier Bresson. Robert Frank. Gordon Parks. Mary Ellen Mark. Susan Meiselas and James Nachtway. Eli Reed. Danny Lyons. Bill Owens. Diane Arbus. Moneta Sleet Jr. Sebastio Salgado. Shelby Lee Adams. Don McCullin. Antonin Kratochvil. Vivian Meier. I could go all day. And Weegee of course.
Do you find the arts or music play a role in your work?
Coltrane Mingus and Monk blowing through my head and the musical fecundity of the postwar jazz movement and it’s freedom of expression and sound. Lots of light and color in jazz and certain classical music.
Are you engaging with the people as you shoot?
You’re engaging because you see the image; whether your subject knows is another story. Sometimes I shoot because I know you won’t capture a moment unless you go in, get the shot. Qualify – an authentic moment. The Wiki definition of “Street Photography” defines it as a “…unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.” Sometimes in order to get a photo, you must interact. The answer is in the results.
What is going through your mind when you push the shutter?
“Did I capture the moment?” I never shoot continuous burst frames, rather single photo because the cameras I started on didn’t have burst modes, so I had to train myself to capture the moment with one shot.
Do you find yourself working the scene with multiple shots, or just a split second?
If the image is still evolving in front of me, I’m shooting. You can shoot 30 portraits of a human face and not one will be the same. As it is with a scene. A trained eye can see the subtle difference between a moment captured and a moment lost.
What are you trying to say in your work?
“Open your eyes and see each other.“ We humans never tire of looking at ourselves, and capturing that endless variation of human expression and interaction with our environment and sharing it via whatever means necessary brings the story of one human to another who may not have been conscious of that other human aspect. Images have huge impact and I want to share truthful images of ourselves so it may shed a light on a shaded awareness. Ignorance breeds fear. Some perform for self and others are looking for social commentary. Where do you find yourself? In both spectrums. I’ve done work in social commentary photography for publication, either self-assigned or assigned by a publication but I have have many images that were shot for the sheer joy of shooting.
Is there a theme or narrative in you work/style?
There is but to define something that is ongoing is difficult.
What are you trying to capture from these moments in the street?
The full spectrum of humanity as glimpsed through a peephole of my own perception. Street photography is voyeuristic, roaming about looking for the trinity of light, shape and color intersecting with the endless turning kaleidoscopic wheel of humanity. You’re standing on the periphery of the wheel watching and waiting. You really have no control over what’s happening in front of your camera, and in many ways, your image is exacting a measure of control over light and shadow and moment. Taking a photo stops that wheel, if only for an instant, and hopefully, you’ll have an image that will be a representative of what you saw through the peephole. Capture that moment. Bring it back. But you have to be there of course.
Thank you so much for your time today. Is there anything you want to add?
Get out there and shoot. And if you’re a street shooter at a public event where a lot of media is involved, always be conscious of getting in their way of them performing their jobs. And take a close look at your image. Sometimes a really good image can be a great image with judicious cropping. Editing is an art that needs as much practice as shooting.
Photography is all about “being there,” and being there has allowed him to witness the world through his viewfinder, documenting in all conditions and seasons the full spectrum of the human condition in 30 countries. Assignments include: Associated Press, ThomsonReuters, Salon.com, USA Today, Newsweek, Greenpeace, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Center for Investigative Reporting, San Francisco Magazine and others.
He has curated and shown his work at several photo exhibitions: “Beyond the Full Moon: Photographs from Sri Lanka After the Indian Ocean Tsunami” at the World Affairs Council and “Beyond the Badge, Photographic Works from Police Officers and Firefighters of San Francisco,CA” at the Harvey Milk Photo Center (HMPC) and most recently, “The Art of Fire-Photographs of San Francisco Firefighters at Work,” exhibited at the HMPC and Terra Gallery – San Francisco.
He fought fire with the San Francisco Fire Dept. for 26 years, and recently exchanged his lieutenant’s badge and hose line for the rangefinder and the 35mm f2 lens.
Photos by Dwayne Newton
Curated by Dave Christensen, Director of HMPC
*Lab operations end 30 minutes before close