Ginny Dixon has been working as a photojournalist for over 3 decades. Her assignments have sent her all over the world to record important moments in history and in people’s lives. She made her mark on the industry as a member of two Pulitzer Prize winning staffs at the Los Angeles Times in 1992 and 1994. Now living on the east coast Ginny regularly contributes to the New York Times, The Sun Sentinal and many other newspapers and publications.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND RAISED? WHERE HAVE YOU SETTLED?
I was born in Ft. Pierce, Florida — went to college and lived in California for 15 years and I now live in Hollywood, FL.
WHAT TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHY DO YOU SHOOT MOST OFTEN? WHAT TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHY ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT SHOOTING?
I shoot a lot of portraits these days but my passion is in documentary and photojournalism. I love telling stories visually and am fascinated by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A SHUTTER RELEASER? WHAT LED YOU TO THIS PROFESSION?
I’ve been making pictures for a long time now, since I was a kid; professionally for close to 30 years. This is going to sound really cheesy but I had a dream one night about being on top of a mountain and clicking away at all the beautiful views. It was so real that the next day I went and registered for school.
HOW HAS ZENFOLIO HELPED YOUR BUSINESS?
It makes things easy for me, which gives me more time to be making pictures. I can change/update the pictures myself. I can show work from anywhere and also create private galleries for my clients. It’s an all in one package. I used to spend lots of time having a web designer make changes and paid a lot for SEO services, I don’t have to do that anymore.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK FLOW, WHAT EDITING PROGRAM DO YOU USE?
Since I sort of watched the digital process begin, I still edit with a program called Photo Mechanic — it was what we used before Adobe came out with Bridge and Lightroom. I also use Capture One now — it’s an amazing program for medium format and 35mm and I am still learning all it has to offer.
DO YOU HAVE BRAND LOYALTY FOR CANON, NIKON OR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?
I started with Nikon and I have stayed true to them for my DSLR and SLR. I also have a lot of their glass and so switching never really made sense financially. It would be a lot of money for me to switch over now and I still love the Nikon product, I think their lenses are the best. I think a good photographer can make a picture with any camera though, it’s not the camera — though that’s the first thing a person will say when they see a great image. “Wow that is a stunning picture, what camera do you use?” It’s always funny to me — kind of like saying “wow, that was a great meal, what kind of oven do you have?” I do have a Canon G12 that I really love when I don’t want to schlep all the gear. It’s a great little camera I can take anywhere.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF BEING A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER?
I’ve always been fortunate to make a living as a photographer and I think as a photojournalist you get to shoot a little of everything. You’re shooting professional and college sports or celebrities or spot news or disasters or food — you know it could be just about anything. It keeps things interesting. You get to get a little glimpse into people’s lives and you realize there are some very interesting people out there doing some amazing things and if you weren’t a photojournalist, you’d probably never get to see and know about any of it. On any given day you get to learn about a multitude of topics. So you get be an expert for an hour or two on a few topics — and after years of it, decades of it, you realize you’ve learned quite a lot of things just by going to work.
ARE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS SELF-TAUGHT OR WERE YOU CLASSICALLY TRAINED?
I have a B.S. degree in Journalism with a specialty in Photojournalism from Cal State Long Beach. I’ve had some awesome mentors along the way and been very fortunate in that regard. Rick Corrales and Mark Boster were two (both were photographers at the LA Times) I quite possibly learned more from them than I did in school. My friend Alan Duignan had a great amount of patience in teaching me to print in the dark room. I am always grateful to these guys.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A NEW PHOTOGRAPHER JUST STARTING OUT?
Well I think you have to be tough — because photography is changing so quickly and it’s competitive. You have to realize that it’s most likely going to be tough at first but most photographers I know are a persistent lot. I’d say shoot a lot, because when you first start out — you’re just not quite there yet and it’s only by shooting a lot that you close that gap. Don’t get discouraged, get critiqued — early and often, shoot some for the client and then shoot some for yourself (cover your ass, but then just shoot for you — many times they will like that better). Be honest with people but also kind to people, be easy to work with and check your ego at the door. Have integrity, show up on time — and of course, never give up. Embrace failures, the quickest way to learn anything is to learn what not to do.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PUBLISHED WORK?
Something in my college newspaper, The Daily 49er. We used to have a section called Faces where we went out on campus with a reporter and interviewed students. It was basically a mug shot.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU AS A PHOTOGRAPHER? OR WHO?
I am most inspired by human fortitude. I’ve seen it a lot in my career, humanity and it’s perseverance. There have been lots of examples during my lifetime; from the riots after the Rodney King trial, the Northridge Earthquake, 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, Sandy and now Sandy Hook to name just a few. Personally I have covered many natural and man made disasters and their aftermath. I am always inspired by the human spirit and its unwillingness to give up, its ability to come together for a greater cause; to rebuild, regroup, reorganize and move forward. People are amazing in most cases. Who? There have been many — I love Irving Penn in particular and as a journalist there are so many great ones — but Cartier-Bresson, James Nachtway and in the recent group I think Carolyn Cole is just amazing and I am a big fan of Joe Pugliese. There is a young couple whose work I love — Carolyn Drake and Andre Gonzalez — completely different styles but some stunning visual story telling. I am also inspired by many of my students.
IS THERE A TRADE SECRET YOU CARE TO SHARE WITH US?
I don’t think it’s a secret but keep in touch with people. They change jobs, move around — at least 50% (and it’s probably a much higher number) of success as a photographer is building and maintaining relationships. People hire you because they like your work, but also because they like working with you. Relationships are the keys to the kingdom.
WHAT IS THE VERY FIRST CAMERA YOU EVER OWNED?
A Brownie, I still have it.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT WE WOULD NEVER GUESS.
When I first moved to Los Angeles I lived on the third floor of my uncle’s mortuary — and for a time I made extra money working for him picking up dead bodies with a friend or one of my cousins. Whoever was around to go with me. It was a big motivator to finish college.
WHAT PIECE OF EQUIPMENT OR DOOHICKEY DO YOU HAVE WITH YOU ON EVERY SHOOT?
A Leatherman, a small step stool, a reflector and extra batteries and cards.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM ON BEING A FIRST CLASS SHOOTER?
Just to be grateful and to always help others be successful — it’s the best way to insure your own success.