Artist Interview: 9/3/2008  

Welcome Home Taylor Dunfee

Taylor Dunfee discusses his photography, travels and recent home-coming after three years in New York and Los Angeles, working for the likes of David LaChappelle and Alexei Hay. 

Sezio: How did you get into photography? What motivates you to take pictures? 

Taylor Dunfee: I got into photography by chance. I was going through a rough point in my life and needed to change my lifestyle and where I was headed; jail or worse didn't seem like a good end result for my life. A family friend, Bill Decker, saw the same red flags that I did and wanted to point me in another direction. He gave me an old Canon T70 and a couple rolls of film and told me to go take some photos. The moment I got those rolls back I was in love.

My main motivation in shooting is the process of creating; stopping a moment in time and capturing all the weird stuff I stop to look at. The way I see things has a lot to do with shapes, lines, and colors, almost a depressing mathematical deconstruction of the world around me. 

SZ: Do you still use that first camera? What else do you shoot with?

TD: No. That camera just sits on a shelf, but I did tattoo it on my hand so it comes with me everywhere. My arsenal of cameras is as follows, Hasselblad 500CF, Widelux F6 Panoramic, Canon 5D, Canon EOS 3, a couple Kodak Brownies that I am trying to bring back to life, and last but not least a Holga.


SZ: You went to Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. Did you enjoy it? How did it influence you as a photographer?

TD: I did enjoy going to Brooks. It's is a year round school that challenges your creativity and knowledge on a day-to-day basis. The classes were focused more on the technical aspect of photography rather than the creative, which to me was the most frustrating part. At the same time it gave me all the necessary tools to make a living being a photographer once I graduated.

SZ: What are your thoughts on artistic schooling?

TD: I think that it's an individual quest; I could have just as easily learned a majority of it though trial and error, but that could have taken me 10-15 years to figure it all out. Instead I decided that going to school for 3 years and being taught everything I needed to get started was the better option for me. My short attention span makes for a lot of half finished projects and I knew for me to be successful at photography I would need schooling to make it happen.

SZ: As we can see from your website you have been quite a few places. Where was your favorite place to photograph and why?

TD: Wow, that's like choosing your favorite child. As cheesy as it sounds I have an emotional connection to all of the places I have shot. Its less about the location, and more what I learned about myself and the local culture while on my travels. I feel the same energy and creativity no matter where I am. I'm always excited to shoot photos, no matter how spectacular or mundane.

SZ: You have spent some time working for other photographers. Who have you worked for?

TD: I have worked for every type of photographer, David LaChapelle, Patrick Demarchelier, Joe Pugliese, Alexei Hay, mainly doing grip (lighting) and digital capture. It has been an amazing experience. I have been able to travel the world and see a lot of amazing things. It has pushed my knowledge of light and how to shape light to complement the human body.

SZ: What is it like being an artist working on someone else's art?

TD: It's really hard being on set and creating someone else's work, but at the same time with every job you learn and grow. Alexei Hay has taught me more in a short period of time than I could ever ask for, he has been a good friend and teacher and in this industry it is hard to find people that are willing to show you the ropes.

SZ: Their careers are based in the entertainment world. Is that the direction you want to take your photography?

TD: No. The funny thing is, I am actually not interested in shooting commercial photography. I am more motivated to travel and see as much of this world as I can before I die.  There are a lot of cultures and environments that I NEED to see and shoot. My job photo assisting is for paying the bills and meeting people in the industry.

SZ: You recently moved back to San Diego, what have you been working on lately?

TD: Being back in my hometown is a weird feeling, I didn't think I would ever move back. After I left Santa Barbara I moved to Brooklyn, then to Los Angeles, to Malibu, and now Clairemont. 

My latest project actually has nothing to do with photography, I have been drawing faces on maps. It has been a liberating task. I draw on these 4 foot maps with a bic pen and actually make faces out of the countries. They take about 8 to 10 hours a piece, I guess it's my new source of meditation.


SZ: In your opinion, How can San Diego's Art Scene improve, what can we learn or "borrow" from New York or Los Angeles?

TD: In L.A. and more so in N.Y., you can go see art pretty much every night of the week, an abandon warehouse in Brooklyn or an Upper Eastside apartment. You can always find something. Everybody just needs to stop myspaceing and get out there and push your work.

View more of Taylor's work in the Gallery below or @ TSDPhoto.com

Tags: Los Angeles, San Diego, Photography, new york, Taylor Dunfee, Artist Intervew

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