Dana Bell is a wife, mother and photographer hailing from Washington, PA. She has some incredible prints to share at the Flea and equally incredible things to say in our interview!
What's your favorite subject to photograph?
My favorite subject to photograph is a tough thing to define. I like new and novel things and places. I gravitate toward objects somewhere in the cycle of growth and decay or that have stark contrasts. I picked up a camera as a way to relax and focus in on the beautiful or interesting parts of life rather than being overwhelmed with the big picture. I started really making photography collections as I traveled over the past few years, so I tend to focus in on things that would make me think productive or interesting thoughts about the culture, the human element, or natural element of an area. I tend to be interested in new or novel places but fairly common elements of those places. More so than the subject, I'm interested in the composition. I love the basic principles of art - texture, color, line, perspective, the golden mean, soft focus, and lighting. I suppose I'm always looking for objects that will highlight those principles elegantly as well as things that give me some insight into life or particularly the life and culture of the area in which I'm shooting. To date I've shot collections in 14 states and 3 countries. I like to find the objects that set these places apart or that make them stand out. I do tend to focus in on plants and insects quite a bit, as well as stone but I don't know that they are my favorite, just what I tend to encounter frequently on my travels and that stand out. As for paid events, I would have to say anything with enthusiastic people. I did a wedding once where the couple barely smiled and it was miserable for me. Someone who smiles, who has ideas, who goes with the flow and has fun makes any paid session or event 10 time more fun.
What's the coolest event you've photographed?
I have done weddings and portraits sessions and team sports photos and they have all (for the most part) been very fun. Shooting someone's wedding is such an honor. I love seeing two people happy and in love and I love photographing the personal details of their day. Portrait sessions tend to be quick but getting to work with new ideas in a quick turnover is rewarding in it's own way. Team sports photos were surprisingly a blast. These kids are at the age to have fantastic ideas and to just have fun with it all. However, the coolest event I've ever photographed was not a paid event, it has been the travel aspect of my photography. Every single trip, each new place, each new experiment with shutter, lighting, and even handling temperature while shooting has been beyond fun and exciting for me. Shooting from the top of a coquina wall in Florida or standing on ice on Lake Ontario in negative 23 degree weather while trying to capture the ominous sky is a thrill and I hope that shows in my prints. My favorite place and collection I've shot is probably New Orleans during Mardi Gras. My favorite photo from this collection is in the French Quarter at about midnight titled "Leaving The Gig." Barring all of that, shooting my kids in all of their activities is also pretty surreal for me. I still can't believe I've made and now get to witness these two little people growing into whoever it is they are meant to be. I would say that's the coolest thing I've used my camera to focus in on.
What is the hardest part of photography?
Right now the hardest part of everything is the business side. I am naturally inclined to creating and coming up with new ideas and working with things until I am happy with the outcome. I have been developing wearables out of my prints and even though it takes time, I'm happy as a clam spending hours making necklaces, earrings, scarves, what have you. I have a hard time however, translating that energy, resilience, and drive into business sense. It is difficult to market one's self and to keep on top of taxes and insurance and all of the other fun things that get thrown at someone starting a small business. I also struggle with paid sessions and clients who want everything for nothing, which I think most photographers encounter from time to time. For every hour I shoot I can spend an hour to two hours editing and organizing photos. For a six hour wedding its isn't uncommon for me to have another twelve hours of work I am doing beyond what the client directly sees. Because digital cameras are prevalent people often underestimate the amount of work in a paid session especially. Luckily I've had lots of advice and help from family, friends, and other artists. Actually shooting and editing are almost therapeutic to me which is why I started doing them. So aside from the typical photographer frustrations beyond my control (weather, weird lighting, equipment failure, cancellations, etc.) I don't tend to have too much to frustration in that area and I actually find the difficulties and challenges quite fun.
Is there a special place in Pittsburgh that you love to photograph? This is a tough one because I tend to gravitate to new and novel places and objects. I like most of the bridges because they tend to be the first thing I imagine when I think of the city and they kind of describe the people here and how accommodating they are. I'm also always interested in the railings up along Mount Washington. The teal railing that starts right around Point View Park is my favorite. It's old and been covered over with layers of paint and someday will be repainted again but the under layers of steel and rust and realness always make their way to the surface. It's beautiful in a well worn, real kind of way. It's part of the city. An element of the whole that shows that life cycle. All the painted steel is very cool. Lots of fun textures and colors and I really love rust. I live in Washington (about 25-30 minutes south of the city) and I have a real affinity for our large cemetery, which encompasses three huge hills that overlook the city. I'm also quite fond of Phipps Conservatory, especially the outdoor water lilies on overcast days. But really, I like "adventuring" (as my small family calls it) and seeking out new places to capture or new details that I might have missed the last time I visited a place, be that the Point, Lawrenceville, Wilkinsburg, or even my home town of Washington.
Along with travel art prints, Dana Bell has begun to experiment and execute some really amazing wearables out of her photos. Be sure to keep up with Dana on Facebook and make her a must stop at your next Flea visit!