We had the good fortune of connecting with Dmitry Dolzhanskiy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dmitry, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I see risk taking as an opportunity for growth. Taking risk is experimenting in a way. And experimenting is ultimate form of creation. Taking a risk is getting out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to experience something new. Taking risk might be scary. It involves a lot of self-work. Working on fear of unknown, fear of failure. And of course, letting go of control. I wouldn’t be who I am today without taking risks.
The biggest risks I’ve taken in my life are moving countries a couple of times: from Russia to UAE, from UAE to USA. It allowed me to learn new cultures and make friends from all over the world, and most importantly to understand that the beauty of this world is in its diversity. And instead of fighting about our differences, we need to embrace them and learn from each other.
Changing careers is also taking a risk. I personally started my photography journey as a photojournalist employed by publishing companies. The biggest risk was starting my own business. After working in publishing business for nearly 7 years my business partners and I launched Russian language fashion and lifestyle magazine in UAE targeting Russian speaking tourist and expats living in the country. We launched a successful product; however, it didn’t reach the success we desired. The crash of the Russian ruble in 2014 sanctions lead to drastic decrease of the number of Russian tourists visiting the country. Following this I moved to the USA to pursue commercial and fine art photography and in that year the pandemic started. This set my path off, like millions of other people. But I am a fighter. I fall, I get up, and I move on and grow. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and sitting in a comfort zone is definitely not my thing.
If you want to change something about your life, just do it and if you fail at least you tried which is half the battle to getting you closer to your dreams and goals.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Photography for me is all about visual storytelling. It’s not just snapping a pretty photo. There’s so much more to it – a photograph should evoke emotions, feelings, memories. I love to capture unstated moments. For example, my collection of fine art, which photographs energetic imprints that I have been able to capture and share with the world. For me it’s about being at the right place at the right time.
But it’s very different from commercial photography when I need to create a story by manipulating light, using various props according to my client’s needs.
I absolutely love what I do. When I work, I have fun and I use my intuition which I believe is coming from my higher self. Photography for me is an opportunity to share with the world stories that others are unable to see. We are very visual people. We pursue life through images, colors, shapes.
Of course, I have my ups and downs and some days don’t feel inspired. Others I’m surfing the wave of creativity.
Throughout my career I burnt out many times. I knew that to overcome those creative blocks change needed to happen. Here we go back to the first questions about risk taking. For me it was anything from changing employer or photography field to moving countries.
I think a lot of photographers are scared to change their field. I started as a photojournalist and eventually moved into commercial photography. I feel like a lot of people are pressured by some unwritten rules that you must stick to doing one thing in life. We live in a constantly evolving world where everything changes around us. The world today is a difference place than it was 20 years ago. Why resist the change? We need to embrace it!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m a very nature loving person. USA is such unique country with so many different national parks. One week is not enough to visit all of my favorite places! But if we had only a week, we would go for a road trip to Zion National Park to do Angel’s Landing Hike, drive to Horseshoe Bend, and finish with the Grand Canyon. This is actually what we did with my sister when she visited me last time and it was absolutely magical.
Another option would be drive north on the Pacific coast Highway to see Big Sur (I still haven’t been there), pass by San Francisco, drive through the Golden Gate Bridge and head further north to Red Wood National Park. You need at least 2-3 days here to fully enjoy this enchanting forest of giant trees. On the way back pass by Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.
And if we had to stay local, we would hit one of the beaches of Orange County, go to the Getty Museum and Villa to enjoy some art and get inspired!
I’d take them for a sunset hike to the back of the Hollywood sign and eat El Salvadorian pupusas at Grand Central Market in Downtown LA. And definitely go to Six flags magic mountain because who doesn’t like a little extreme rollercoaster ride lol
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It is very important to recognize that our success comes from learning from other people. I am grateful to every single person who’s given any kind of support, believed in me, and gave me an opportunity to grow and become who I am today. The list is quite long lol. I would like to start with my family for giving me the freedom and support to follow my dreams. I would like to shout out Evgeny Uvarov, a photographer and editor-in-chief of “Digital Photo” magazine who trusted me with an assignment of shooting a total solar eclipse back in March 2006. I will never forget that core memory of seeing my photo on the cover of the magazine. I just graduated from university, with only a couple of years of experience in photography, I landed my first cover. I was floating with emotions, and this inspired me to pursue photography fulltime. It was a big deal during pre-social media era.
I’m also grateful to Sevag Davidian, my first boss at ITP who hired me when I just moved to Dubai. Even though I studied English for years, I couldn’t really speak it. I remember very well he told me at the job interview, “I need you to take great photos and you will pick up English. eventually and he was right. After just 2 months with the company, I broke my language barrier. Working for a big company wasn’t easy, I felt burnt out many times, but his mentorship and guidance kept me going. A very special thank you to the beautiful soul Apollonia Keys (Anne-Marie) Martinez for her friendship and support. Sheila Vance of Sama Eyewear, the most talented, kind and supporting person I know. I’m grateful to my partner Alex who inspires me to be a better version of myself.