We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathleen Dreier and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathleen, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
There are many aspects of photography that most are unaware of beyond the “point and shoot” of a camera to the craft of being a photographer. Just a handful of those aspects include: 1. Hours of training and practice to learn the particular functions and capabilities of one’s camera and lens. Not every camera operates the same way. Then, there is constant re-learning as the technology is always changing. 2. The amount of time spent in a darken room in front of one’s computer adjusting images for best presentation. It is not unusual for me to spend up to 3 hours in processing/adjusting the images for each hour of actual photography. 3. The enormous investment it takes to run a photography business including the cost of equipment, computers, required camera accessories, insurance, back up systems to protect one’s work, licensing, professional memberships, web site costs, print costs, etc. not to mention all of the other expenses such as rent and utilities. 4. It takes years of practice to train one’s eyes to “see” what to photograph, how to compose a shot, developing not only patience to wait for the composition to occur but also be able to respond instantaneously to unexpected moments. 5. The business of photography is highly competitive. Developing a solid and loyal client base takes time, effort and nurturing. There is a continuous necessity to expand one’s network across various social media platforms and other print and digital formats. 6. Every professional photographer has distinct style. It is important for a photographer to clearly explain and show samples of their unique vision and assure that they are able to meet the needs of their client.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Back in 2012, I attended a multi-day photography workshop in Las Vegas. One of the presenters, Matthew Jordan Smith, spoke about the importance of having personal photography projects to work on in between paid assignments to stay inspired and learning. I have always taken that advice to heart. I’m in my 15 year of business and most of my paid photography is business and community events. However, in mid-March, when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived full force in Arizona, within a span of 3 days, all of my paid work for the rest of 2020 was canceled. I was crushed. But I soon learned (again) about my drive to create and followed my internal organic process to uncover my next steps. By the end of March, I started a portrait series on Tucson’s frontline and essential workers. Following safety protocols, I take the person’s portrait outside their home or work, and afterwards they email me a statement sharing anything they want about how the pandemic has impacted them, their line of work and the people they serve. Then, when George Floyd was murdered by police, another portrait series, Tucson Black Voices, was birthed in response to amplify that Black Lives Matter and to take proactive steps to be an ally. With the series, each person shares whatever they want about being Black. My intention, as a middle-aged White woman, is to encourage people, particularly other White people in my city, to consider and understand the diverse experiences of our Black community. To date, between the two series, approximately 140 people have participated. While unpaid, I am compelled to continue the work due to my lifelong tendency to do whatever I can to make the world a better place. I have created dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages for each series (@TucsonFrontlineWorkers and @TucsonBlackVoices). To be creative in one’s craft is like being in a rudderless boat in unfamiliar waters: being willing to start a new project not knowing which direction the project will flow but following a sense of intuition and inspiration. For example, with Tucson Black Voices, I have recently began to do live interviews and conversations on Facebook with some of the people who have participated. My hope is that Tucson Frontline Workers and Tucson Black Voices, serve to both education and support the people of Tucson. While I continue looking for paid photography work, I am applying for grants and other support opportunities for the two social awareness-raising series..(extra period needs to be deleted) It is possible that the current bodies of work I am creating during the pandemic will lead me to whatever my next photography business direction as our economy recovers from the pandemic. I’m trusting that if I continue to create good work the rest will reveal itself.
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.
Tucson offers dozens of activities that appeal to all different sorts of interests and abilities. Typically, when I have guest who has never been to Tucson before, one of the first things I do is give them a brief driving tour including to the top of Gates Pass to witness their first mind-blowing Tucson sunset and to the top of A Mountain to get a wide overview of our city. We would spend a day exploring all that Mt. Lemmon has to offer with its scenic lookouts and hiking trails, making our way to the cookie cabin in Summerhaven. For art and photography lovers, I would take my guests to Etherton Gallery, the Tucson Art Museum, and The Center for Creative Photography. Of course, it would be important to schedule historic tours such as the Downtown Walking Tour, the Biosphere up in Oracle, and the San Xavier Mission. For my thrill-seeking friends, we would also go ziplining at Arizona Zipline Adventures. After a morning walk up Tumamoc Hill, I would treat my guest to my favorite breakfast burritos and espresso horchessa at Barista del Barrio. I love our food/music venues so we would definitely eat and listen to music at La Cocina and Monterey Court. No Tucson visit would be complete without spending a day at the Desert Museum and even Old Tucson. And my guest and I would go on multiple hikes in our vast local trail system.
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?
There are so many people that have helped me on my journey to be a full time photographer. Two people I honor have passed away in recent years: First, Veronica Phillips was my business coach who led me out of my self-imposed darkness of doubt, creating a foundation for me to love myself and my unique gifts in this world. Second, I had a good fortune to study directly with my photography hero, Mary Ellen Mark, in 2015, one month before she died. She gave me direction on my photographic style that still influences my work. Her historic work in Life Magazine in the 1970’s influenced me for decades before I became a photographer. It does indeed take a village for us to be the best we can be. Among my current circle of influencer and support includes professional coaches including Mary Virginia Swanson and David Meltzer; many photographers who are my friends and mentors including George Nobechi, Glenn Ruga, Manuel Ruiz, Kate Breakey, Jessica Lea Korff, and Nicci Radhe; organizations that guide me including The National Press Photographers Association, Visit Tucson, Local First Arizona, and Social Documentary Network/Zeke Magazine. I could go on and name many other people who don’t have any idea how much they in their respective fields influence my work.
Other: Portrait series on Instagram: @TucsonFronlineWorkers and @TucsonBlackVoices
All images © Kathleen Dreier Photography