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Meet Dominic, Traveller & A Visual Journalist

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

- By Anshul Raj Khurana

I have been following Dom’s work for a while and must say it has inspired me. I am an avid reader to his blog and my personal favorite is ‘Something Untold’, a documentation of Sudanese life.

His approach towards documenting life is very different. Being a visual journalist, he has a beautiful way of recording human element. His shots are well composed and tell a strong story of culture, habitation and social order.

A brief about Dominic:

I grew up Northern California, in the USA, where I lived with my mom, aunt, one brother, and one sister. Two other sisters lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so as a young kid we were always driving around the state for holidays or family events or just to visit people or whatever. The California landscape had a lot to do with my upbringing. Countless hours of staring out of car windows and all the time I spent exploring my aunt's 15-acre property played a big part to who I am. It really taught me patience and quiet.

At the beginning of year 12, I had an opened period (wrt learning). I followed a friend to his Black+White Photo class; I didn't even know the high school had a photo class and ended up dropping Chemistry because I had all the science credits I needed to graduate. I had a knack for it and soaked up everything the teacher told us. Not long after, I figured I could do this for the rest of my life.

Now I travel with my wife. We have been traveling for three years, taking jobs as English Teachers or in our normal professions, photography, and writing, respectively. Right now I live in Cambodia; I photograph editorial and lifestyle stuff for a few local magazines. There's a great community of photographers here, so we are always encouraging one another to create more and more.

Anshul- What is photography for you? How do you see it?​

Dominic- Every time I ask myself this question, the only honest solution is the original: Photography is a way to calm my mind, observe my surroundings, and seek contentment. What I look for and what I see is just a feeling. If I don't feel the need to release the shutter, I won't. When I do make a photograph, it is because I see something beautiful. A lamp post, a person, some paint on the sidewalk, it could be any of these things, but first I must swoon, then the photograph is made.

Anshul- Do you follow any photographers? Who has inspired you in photography? Could you talk about your learnings & inspirations?

Dominic-Of course. I follow Pascal Meunier, a French documentary photographer that works in film. I find his work impossibly well composed and vibrant, and ultimately what I would like to do. Simon Hoegsberg is another I keep up with. He's based in Copenhagen. He has a knack for blending real life situations and stories with abstract concepts and then is able to portray those ideas so well. I always check his work periodically. There are so many others that I look to for inspiration: Abelardo Morell, Alexey Titarenko, Caleb Charland, Joyce Tenneson, Kishin Shinoyama, Seungwoo Yang... it just goes on and on.

A lot of my inspiration comes from people I consider leaning towards fine art. My background is documentary photography, but I'm fascinated with work that portrays ideas more than stories. I'm always looking for more people that can blend the two.

Anshul- You have a beautiful way of documenting life with and without the human element. Could you talk more about your photographic style?

Dominic-When someone asks me to explain my photography to them, and they haven't seen it, I tend to use words like 'contemporary' and 'graphic' to give a precise definition of how I see. I like to think that my work reflects that, especially my two projects from Hong Kong. In older projects like 'Moments of Solitude' which were shot between 2010 and 2012, I think it's clear that I had some idea about elemental separation, but the outcome was more of isolation. I think that is the key term to my style. I tend to isolate subjects from the crowd or their surroundings. By creating extreme separations in my frame. I can somehow organize the scene. The outcome tends to be images that are relatively neutral, leaving the audience with space to think. And secondly, I like pictures that are fun to look at, so I try to make those as well.

Anshul- Most of your shots are in color, have you always shot in color?

Dominic-I learned photography in a black and white film class. I still develop my B+W film when I can, and I was traveling with lots of b+w films for a while. Right now all my negatives are in a different country, so when the time comes, I will have lots to go through. But I love color. I like how I can use color to create unique relationships in my frame or make a particular element stand out. I definitely see in color, and it can take me a while to readjust my brain to shoot in black and white. 

Anshul- How do you initiate a thought & decide about a project and take it to life?

Dominic-There are a few different ways a project can come about. First and foremost, I have a concept, start to visualize it, and try to shoot it. I work at making what I see in my mind's eye come out in photographs. This is how 'Exist' came about, I wanted to explore the idea of being in a place and having proof of it. So I shot people in motion in a way that hopefully makes us wonder about the meaning of physically being somewhere and if those notions can be pushed aside. For concept-heavy projects, I tend to do some doodles in my notebooks and write notes around them about what I want to accomplish. 

Then there's daily shooting, which might turn into a project if I spot a theme after a while, like looking for people that are alone. I love just to shoot without a purpose, for the love of shooting. So after a few months of collecting images, maybe a theme has popped up, and I can turn my attention to that. It is something I don't do so much now, but it is an excellent way to keep shooting while working on other stuff. 

Anshul- You have traveled to some interesting countries. Tell us about your experience.

Dominic-I have been fortunate to live in a few different countries and do a bit of regional travel from where I am. I have found this to be an excellent way to learn a lot more about-about a place and make the kind of connection that you can eventually depict in your photographs. When visiting a new location as a tourist, you end up with the same experiences over and over, and your insight into that country or area is insufficient. You often hear people say that they have "done" some trip, and I find that very presumptuous. There is no way to have a complete understanding of a place by being a tourist; you have to embed yourself. By spending time abroad, you get to see how the rest of the world works, how similar everyone is and how the same fundamental issues afflict us. Building that empathy is necessary, it comes out as respect for a place and people when making photographs

Anshul- What gear do you use? Your favorite camera/ lens?

Dominic-Right now my digital gear is Canon 7D and assorted lenses. My favorite thing to use while traveling is my Voigtlander Bessa R4m and three lenses with that. It's a 35mm rangefinder, and it allows me to be free, and that is most important. Many beginners want top-of-line gear or want to know what their favorite photographer uses. The truth is it doesn't matter. How much attention do I give the act of making a picture, and how much attention does the camera require? This is the important thing for me. The more attention the camera needs, the less I use it. I just sold my Fuji X-Pro1, not because it's not nice (it can take a beautiful image), but it takes so much attention away from taking a photograph. On the flipside, my R4m has no batteries, no auto-focus, and is small. I can make shots without even thinking about the camera. The 50mm 1.5 Nokton is my current favorite on that.

Anshul- What suggestions would you give to the beginners out there who have started their journey with photography?

Dominic- Shoot all the time. Shoot the stuff you like. Love music, shoot music. Love your friends, shoot friends. Love nature, shoot nature. Don't worry about your gear, use the gear that allows you to make an image. If it stays in your bag, it's useless. Learn to critique your work, and ask for help. You might love a picture because of the situation around it (when you shot it), but if it doesn't translate in the right photo, it will not work. 

You can see more of Dominic’s work here.

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