Professional Denver Colorado Photographer Dani Odalen Interview
Enjoy this honest and intimate artist interview with Denver, Colorado based photographer Dani Odalen. Behind the camera she becomes “this type of monster”, loves to shoot “anywhere that is grungy and grimey and has great ways to deal with photographer’s block!!!
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: It is a chance for me to get people to question. Question everything! What they know to be right, what the know to be wrong, what they know of beauty and God. It’s a small opportunity for the audience to see a piece of me in the photos if they look hard enough.
Q: Do you like to talk about yourself or your pictures? If yes, about what aspects of photography? If no, why?
A: Yes and no. I can explain myself to an extent but in all reality the image of me you receive is that which you perceive. All I can try to explain about my pictures are technical aspects, everything else is in the eye of the beholder. Art is not supposed to answer questions, it is supposed to inspire them.
Q: How would you describe your attention span?
A: I am a meticulous worker, a tinge of OCD probably doesn’t help…but I am incredibly driven and focused when it comes to my work. I’ll spend 8-10 hours in the dark room to get 3 prints done…nothing is good enough to me sometimes.
Q: When did you decide to become a photographer?
A: I’ve always held an interest for photography ever since I was a young kid. I finally got my first SLR for my 15th birthday and that’s when it truly took off.
Q: Can you recall the first photo you took that made you go WOW!?
A: I was 16 and just finished my first Sabbatier piece of this Cathedral on Colfax and Pennsylvania in Denver, CO and it’s when it really hit me that I can make some good artwork.
Q: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?
A: Somewhat, I took a couple of classes in high school, if anything the classes were just to learn the equipment and certain techniques, but I have not continued my schooling.
Q: How technical is your photography?
A: Incredibly technical, I don’t shoot out of the Manual settings on my SLRs. I am very linear in my thinking and that even transcends into my pictures with how they are composed, where the balance is, no joke-stickler for detail.
Q: How do you feel about cropping?
A: I try my best to get the composition before I hit the shutter release button but sometimes, cropping helps the image and can sometimes turn it into something completely different-I’m for it when necessary.
Q: Where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the World and why?
A: I have not had the chance to live anywhere else and “work.” But Denver, CO is a great city and is definitely home to me, a great community that follows the art and just good vibes that foster some good creativity. However, out of my travels, I would like to say along the East Coast is amazing. I did some shoots in Florida and was just taken back by the gorgeous historic architecture. Basically anywhere that is grungy and grimey works best, I love the “underworld.”
Q: Define the word “beauty”!
A: Such a subjective word. I like to believe that beauty exists everywhere, it is part of the larger scheme of attaining a balance. There cannot be “beauty” if there is no “ugly.” I suppose that what I really believe is that since Ugly is the antithesis of Beauty, because it is simply in existence makes it beautiful. I don’t know, if my totally existential point of view did not explain it, then the word is perhaps left better undefined.
Q: What is your most favorite and least favorite word in photography or life? How do they make you feel?
A: My least favorite word is an ethnic slur, so that doesn’t really need to be repeated. That particular word upsets me because of the origins and its use to cut to the core of an entire group of people, the words existence is not at all necessary. However, my favorite word is pacify-it describes life perfectly, there is only so much you can do to ease the pain, but you just have to grin and bare it.
Q: How does your personality change when you look through the camera?
A: I become this type of monster. I am so driven and energized, I just become flooded with images and then do my best to follow the lead. I totally feed off the models and the surroundings, I dunno, I love it though.
Q: How do you feel about missed shots which cannot be recreated?
A: They were obviously not meant to be taken, the muse that got away.
Q: Ever concerned about failure?
A: Absolutely, who isn’t?
Q: Who are your influences?
A: Diane Arbus, she has an amazing style and is someone I wish to channel with some of my work. Her stuff is silencing.
Q: What is your favorite image, either your own or someone else’s or both? Describe its creation or meaning to you?
A: I love Annie Leibowitz’s collection of John Lennon images. John Lennon is someone to me who embodies everything I have the deepest desires to accomplish. I just am so in love with the fact that he was true to his art and had the ability to be the face of a generation and their cry for peace.
Q: Describe a day in your personal or professional life.
A: I am really not that interesting, I get up and take my puppy outside. I smoke a cigarette and drink some coffee, might go back in and smoke. But after I’m ready I go the gallery I show in and help straighten out, try to get more artists into the gallery. Right now the gallery is in the middle of restructuring so I’ve been property shopping lately and writing up business plans and grant proposals, very businessy but I like it. I usually shoot during the weekends and process and edit during the week.
Q: What are the biggest personal or professional challenges you face on a daily basis?
A: Being broke haha, I invested a lot in getting my projects running and then not having the kind of return I was expecting can be a little disappointing but nothing to cry over.
Q: What has been the single biggest obstacle against growing as a photographer in whole?
A: Not listening to myself in the first place.
Q: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
A: Anyone and anything with a story. I love people, places, just anything. I don’t like limiting myself or pigeonholing myself into only shooting one style of photograph.
Q: Tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photo shoot!
A: On the shoot for my new series The Changeling Story was one of the most intense feelings I have ever had in my life. My best friend is a Body Piercer at Temptation Tattoo in Lakewood, CO and she asked me to do a shoot of her piercing a corset on this girl’s chest. The girl she was piercing, was the most intense human being I have ever came in contact with. The energy in the room was unbelievable, my legs were shaking and it was like I was higher than I have ever been. That same energy comes back to me when I look at it. It was this sinister, evil, powerful, and almost ethereal feeling, nothing like it in the world.
Q: Have you ever thought about or actually stopped doing photography? What were the circumstances?
A: No, not once. This is one thing I am 100% certain about in my life.
Q: Do you ever have photographer’s block and if yes how do you deal with it?
A: On occasion, I usually get pretty stoned, watch a Rob Zombie movie, listen to some A Perfect Circle or Tool and just let my thoughts dance. I try to hang out with people that I haven’t seen in a while, or take a road trip. I don’t know, I just try to change my routine a little bit.
Q: What types of assignments are you attracted most?
A: Anything grungy, grimey, gross, off the wall, gorey, something undone. I love taking photos of “unthinkable” acts. I like finding beautiful things in the ugliest of situations.
Q: Describe what black and white photography means to you?
A: It is my foundation and building blocks. Even when I am shooting in color I still see the frame in my head as black and white. There is just something so more emotive about black and white, it leaves more room to guess and fill the blanks in yourself. I love it, its empowering to the audience.
Q: Do you think of yourself as an artist and what do you think of the word artist?
A: I do think of myself as an artist, the word artist is again subjective but anyone can be one. It just takes their visual projection of how they view the world around themselves for everyone else to see. Where words fail, art prevails…and the image is just a projection where words may have tried to be.
Q: How do you describe your photographic style?
A: Best described by you (the audience). I guess I would describe it like how I most commonly hear it “raw, edgy, in-your-face, punk rock.” Pretty generic description.
Q: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction to your photographs?
A: I am always surprised and elated to hear that people enjoy my work. I guess I’m really harsh on my work and I just get so happy when people say they like my work.
Q: Tell a little secret about yourself that no-one knows …
A: Then it wouldn’t be a secret now would it?
Q: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?
A: I would love the chance to photograph President Obama, I just admire that man and I think it would make a very powerful photograph. And I would love to photograph Maynard James Keenan, he is a genius when it comes to hi artwork and message and I would be so honored to capture him.
Q: What would you have done differently during your photography career so far and could this be an advice to others?
A: Well, I am just starting to make a name for myself, so at this point my advice is, be true to who you are and your journey in life but be prepared, starving artist is not just a cliche.
Q: What are your thoughts on the paparazzi and their effects on photographers and photography?
A: I think the paparazzi and other various types of “photographers” have kind of distracted people from realizing and recognizing photography as a true art, and there is definitely talent and discipline that comes with being any sort of artist, but a quick frame without composition sense or structure just kind of makes it look like that is how all photographers shoot.
Q: How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
A: I like using digital and the editing process is actually easy once you know your tools. I just use it for simple manipulations that can be used for great impact and that is what I go for, certain editing tools within the software can really accent and speak my style in different ways-just diversifies my body of work.
Q: What other thoughts would you like to share?
A: Make love, not war.
Visit Dani’s: MySpace profile.