We are continuing our Griffin State of Mind series by introducing you to one of our newest instructors, Dana Smith. Dana will be teaching a workshop at the museum called Mastering Flash: An On-Location, Low-Frills Approach this summer. We hope you will join us in welcoming Dana to the Griffin community.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
It’s impossible to be a member of the Boston photo community and not know about the Griffin. I’ve been a photography teacher for 20 years and the Griffin Museum has never ceased to be an invaluable resource for anyone learning, teaching, or loving photography.
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
Fortunately it’s not something I ever have to try to do—it’s involuntary. From the minute I wake up to the moment I fall asleep my brain is thinking about pictures I’ve made, am hoping to make, or saw someone else make that I wish I had made or will eventually become capable of making. I never tire of the process and have yet to live a day where I didn’t want to create an image. As for artists that have inspired me lately, Wing Shya (Hong Kong) is someone that I’m constantly in awe of and whose work is a never-ending treasure trove of cinematic pageantry. While he’s hardly new his work never gets old.
Can you tell us about the new class you will be teaching at the Griffin this summer?
My ‘low-frills’ flash class was designed to take the lighting panic out of on-location photography. Portable flash is a powerful tool but every minute spent futzing with equipment is a minute that could be spent engaging with your subject. The ability to combine strobe with natural/available light opens up so many visual possibilities and allows the photographer to utilize light to custom build their narrative and covey a meaningful story about their subject. As someone who makes a living as an editorial/magazine portrait photographer, nothing ever goes as planned and time is always of the essence. In this workshop we will learn to be resourceful (on the cheap) and work fluidly to create portraits that are beautiful, complex, and emotionally rich.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
Years ago there was an exhibition that I can’t recall the name of but it featured the history of the ‘snapshot’ and vernacular photography. As someone who has built his career photographing people, I’ve realized that the soul of nearly every successful portrait is usually connected to something or someone that the viewer has known or seen in their own family photo albums.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
I love Istanbul but the history, colors, and textures can be visually overwhelming so I can’t really call it an escape. I suppose I like to get lost on any left-behind Mainstreet, USA.
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
At the moment I can’t stop listening to an in-store reel-to-reel tape played within K-Mart stores in 1973. Yup, it’s exactly the kind of twisted time warp you’d imagine
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a conversation, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I’m obsessed with the art of storytelling and have been a Springsteen fan for as long as I can remember so I’d have to go with Bruce, but if he’s unavailable I’ll happily sit with Martin Scorsese.
About Dana Smith –
Dana Smith has been a widely published photojournalist and editorial photographer for the past twenty-five years. He has worked with many top editors & art directors in the industry and has photographed for publications such as Time, Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Fortune, and Yankee. His photo-illustrations have been recently in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.