Dawn Kish (www.dawnkishphotography.com) is an Arizona-based photojournalist and outdoor photographer. She is represented by National Geographic Images and contributes as well to Aurora Photos and Getty Images. Her photographs seem to match her personality: interesting, exciting, and full of life. Her work has appeared on the covers of many magazines and she currently holds a position at the prestigious Arizona Highways Magazine shooting a regular piece on "Odd Jobs." In a current industry where editorial work is hard to come by, Dawn continues to foster a strong relationship with the magazine and continually approaches her subjects with fresh eyes. She was kind to share some of her thoughts about her editorial work for the magazine with Pictureline.
Pictureline: Tell us a little about your photography, your philosophy of photography, and subjects/concepts that make you get up in the morning and want to shoot.
Dawn Kish: "I can't live without my camera…I feel naked without it. Whether I'm on assignment or not, I usually have a camera with me. I see things all the time, that I feel, that need to be documented. Anything... people, places, and things. If there is good light or something creative happening, hopefully I can capture it. I think that photography is all about the light and vision. I'm mostly into natural light and constantly looking for it. I enjoy looking at light and how it shapes things and moves me."
Pictureline: Not many photographers get to work in such freedom on journalistic assignments anymore, especially a "day in the life" type of situation. What sorts of qualities should photographers foster both photographically and non-photographically in searching for opportunities such as this?
Dawn Kish: "When working with people, you have to earn their trust. You have to approach them without an attitude and be honest with them. The main thing is to be yourself. Hopefully, they will realize that you are doing great work, that documenting them and what they do is important. Because it is. We all have qualities inside us that make the world go round. Showing honor and respect is a big part of my job. I want to get in their world for a just a moment. Plus, I'm good at telling jokes and that always helps break the ice. Hee hee."
Pictureline: Tell us about one of your favorite assignments for Arizona Highways. How did you come across these people and their lifestyles? How do you integrate yourself into their day without having them change their routine?
Dawn Kish: "These are all assignments but working more with this project "Odd Jobs," the magazine likes to hear ideas I have, as well. We have a great working relationship, and I'm honored to be on the team. My photo editor, Jeff Kida, is just the best and the writer/editor, Kathy Richie, is a dream to bounce ideas off of. To be honest, in Arizona, if you tell folks you are working for AZ Highways Magazine they are so impressed and are excited to be in there. This makes my job a little easier. AZ Highways Magazine represents our state, the unique people and the beautiful landscapes. Most folks are willing to have a photogeek around for a few hours of their day. So, I'm really lucky to have an excuse to be a paparazzi for the day. I get paid to observe and document people. How cool is that?"
Pictureline: It's really cool. What have you learned both about photography and about culture/people/environment when shooting these assignments for Arizona Highways? Have you learned more about yourself?
Dawn Kish: "Good question. I learn everyday, whether it be photographic or personal. When I was a young punk, I use to think I knew everything, but when you get older you realize that the world has something to offer every second. There is so much to learn that I can't fit it all in. I try to LISTEN to the people I'm photographing. They have so much to teach you. When I'm in the field or on a personal journey, I try to hear what people are about. I have always said that the world is my classroom. From these assignments, I have learned that goats are very loving animals, how rum is distilled, how a mariachi band can make you cry, and how a 70-year-old spur maker can put up with your ass for five hours. Leon King, the spur maker, was such a gem to be around, and I hung out with him till the sun went down."
Pictureline: Tell us about the equipment you bring for such a journalistic assignment. Is less more? Are you a one camera girl? Do certain lenses cover you for the assignment?
Dawn Kish: "I'm really into natural light, but once in a while, I'll bust out some lights. I try to make the light as natural looking as possible or at least interesting light. As for equipment, yes, less is more. But I do bring some extras like backdrops, light stands, tripods, a grip kit, flashes, pocket wizards, batteries, extra camera body, one hot light, reflector board, softbox, ladder. All this extra equipment is in the van. It stays there until I really think I need it. Overall, I have a camera bag I sling around me and go. I use a Osprey messenger bag and in it a camera body, three lenses, lens cleaner, a flash, batteries (extra for flash and camera), compact flash cards (already to go and formatted), photo releases, business cards, a pen, and notebook to take notes (get the phone number of hot men, hee hee)."
Pictureline:: Do you have a favorite lens?
Dawn Kish: "My favorite lens is the lens that I need to work with. The one that helps facilitate my vision. I do find most of my work is with a wide angle. This way I can get close the action. It feels like I'm part of the moment! XX"