In Conversation: David Jackson

Cynthia Haynes

David Jackson is an award-winning advertising, commercial and entertainment photographer hailing from the Midwest. In 2007, he left his full-time job of 14 years as a police officer to pursue a career as a photographer and to maintain his life's priority as a devoted husband and father to three little girls. David’s client list includes network television, record companies, Fortune 500 companies, magazines and advertising agencies such as: HBO, Comcast/Xfinity, Mazda, Walmart, Weight Watchers, KonLive Records, Eleven Seven Music, Razor & Tie, GMR Marketing and Pace Communications; the various magazines include Inc., Alternative Press, Revolver, Metal Hammer, Kerrang!, American Craft, Mazda’s Zoom Zoom magazine and Inked. You can check out his work at davidejackson.com.

How long have you been behind the camera and what made you first pick one up?

I’ve been shooting since 1999, but photography has been my full-time gig since 2007. I started shooting bands at local concerts with disposable point-and-shoot 35mm cameras. And I sucked, like really bad. I was a huge music nerd and couldn’t wrap my head around why my photos looked so terrible and others were awesome. There was sort of turning point where I dove headlong into learning everything I could about photography. I joined online forums, read books, picked up magazines and pasted photos to my wall: anything and everything.

Over the course of a few years, I happened upon a few photographers that I really looked up to and admired including Brandon Merkel, Zack Arias, James Davis, Cary Norton, and Jeremy Weiss. It kind of pissed me off that these guys were so damn good. I befriended some of these photographers on a 2005 internet forum called “The Paper Brigade,” and we eventually became both colleagues and close friends.

You worked as a police officer in your past life; do you find that there is anything from that discipline that works for—or against—you in your photography career?

Definitely! It has helped me in many ways, really. Most importantly, I learned to talk to people and build relationships quickly. It’s not too often I need to defend myself on photo shoots, but the whole verbal judo thing works like a charm. That, and having patience with people, is direly important. There have been a few times on shoots where exercising patience has been a key in ensuring the job gets done effectively and to the client’s satisfaction.

The photographs featured in this post are from your “Simple+Dirty” collection; what was your creative process behind this concept? 

Essentially, my SIMPLE+DIRTY series is on an indefinite hiatus since 2011 given my current client workload and the pace of my family (my wife and I have three little girls), not to mention doing this type of photography work is extremely dangerous! With that being said, when I was shooting it, I fell in love with these places. I firmly believe in the idea that beauty and light can be found everywhere, even in the darkest places of our lives. I find locations like these rather intriguing, not entirely for the history, but for their visual intrigue. More so than anything else, this series is a study of light, lines and symmetry (odd how those math classes are actually useful some day).

Being in abandoned places can evoke a certain sadness over what once was; have there been any emotional surprises for you along the way? 

Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with abandoned buildings. Perhaps it's the eeriness of theses places, the haunting stories they tell, the smells, or even the uncomfortable surroundings. Oddly enough, I've never truly felt comfortable shooting this stuff, but most of what I shoot is within the quiet charms of rural Wisconsin farmland. Even though the structural hazards are present, our local communities are relatively safe to shoot in. With that comes the idea that documenting a decaying building is documenting change, much the same as every person goes through change in a lifetime. Change is not to be feared, but embraced.

None of your photographs are in black and white; is there a reason that you chose colour for this series, despite the obvious lack of life in these places?

I’ve always been driven by colour, especially in these environments. The colour palettes in the '50s, '60s and '70s were ridiculous. Aside from looking at this series as a study of lines and light, I find that colour is a huge factor when pairing images together in a series. By gravitating toward vibrant colours, these entire scenes take on a life of their own.

If you owned only one camera and one lens, what would they be and why?

Canon 1DX and a 24-70mm. Why? Because that combination alone practically cost me as much as a car. And I hate buying new gear unless I absolutely have to! For me, it’s about the product, not the gear. However, I think the only other choice above and beyond the 1DX is a medium format system, which I would love to have. The 1DX is fast, focuses unlike any other Canon before it and is durable in adverse environments. That said, the majority of my SIMPLE+DIRTY series was actually shot on a Canon 1D Mark III. I love the colours that came off that sensor!


 

Interview

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