View the world through another lens with Susan G. Drinker and Dick Durrance
Dick Durrance launched his photography career with a National Geographic story before becoming an Army combat photographer and eventually moving into advertising photography. “I was realizing that in telling their stories, I was developing my ability to create a vision for my life. I was moving from being a picture maker to being a vision maker,” he said. “I was learning the power of images to communicate a message.”
Susan G. Drinker fell for the artistic side of photography at an early age and honed her skills at the University of Denver and Art Institute of Boston. She pursued advertising photography to make her passion into a career.
The husband-and-wife pair met in the ’80s in a Paul Caponigro class, where they learned about images as metaphors. Their latest collaboration, “Within & Without,” applies that perspective to everyday images of Carbondale. The exhibit is part of a double opening at The Launchpad tonight, alongside “Fresh Perceptions: Middle School Students Discovering Ordinary Magic.”
Post Independent: The two of you come from rather different photography backgrounds, but have worked together on a number of projects through the years. What’s the process like?
Dick Durrance: We came up with an idea of doing the national parks together, where we worked side-by-side for three years in the national parks. The way we worked, the first person who spotted a picture got to put their tripod there and the other person had to find something else. Nine times out of 10, the person who spotted the first picture got the obvious picture, and the person who had to go find something else got the better picture.
… After the national parks, we published those pictures as posters and notecards, which was totally a joint effort, and then eventually I drifted into the speaking, using pictures from all these different facets of photography, and have melded them into a talk in which I explore with people how they can do more with their pictures to tell their story in this age of images.
In 2015, an average of 3.2 billion pictures were published online every single day. That tells us a lot about how important pictures are in our online communication, our personal communication, our professional communication. I’ve now pulled all these different aspects of photography together to work with people to tell their stories through pictures.
PI: How did that show up with this show in particular?
DD: It goes back to the fact that we were instinctively inclined to not only shoot pictures for what they are, but what else they are, to see images as metaphors, to see objects in pictures as more than they are (as they learned from Paul Caponigro). That’s why we work together so well, because we see much the same way.
PI: I understand this show is truly your baby. How did the concept come about?
Susan G. Drinker: I had the sense that Dick had lost the joy of shooting for the pure pleasure of shooting. So I proposed to Carbondale Arts a couple years ago that Dick and I do a show together of this sort of off-the-shoulder, impromptu shooting to engage both of us back into the pleasure of photography, not the work of photography.
I also do photographic therapy for the Jaywalker Lodge, and I know areas that are very rich photographically in Carbondale from working with those guys. I started out dragging Dick up and down alleys, and we both had fun just going out together and shooting together. He, obviously being the talent that he is, took off with it fairly quickly. Because we have fairly busy lives we did some shooting together, I’d say 50 percent together.
As I always say, your camera is only as good as what’s in your pocket. It seems like the iPhone is always with you and always available.
PI: How do your and Dick’s backgrounds complement or challenge each other?
SD: I think the most obvious thing is that I’m a woman and he’s a man, so that’s two different perspectives. I think we both come at an image from a different place, so what we come away with are different kinds of images. I think mine are a little more emotionally based and Dick’s are a little more intellectually based.
Basically I’m fine art and a woman and he’s advertising/National Geographic and a man. We both know what a good picture is. If there’s a slight subtle change in the light, we both look at each other and go, hmmm. We’re both very attentive photographers, and we share that language. I think photography is a language, and we both know how to speak it. That makes for a common bond that makes it fun to work together, yet we both have different perspectives.
I’d say probably 50 percent of the show you probably wouldn’t know who took it if we hadn’t signed them, and I think the other 50 percent you would.
PI: What do you hope viewers take from the show?
SD: A print.
I hope when they walk out the door, they’ll notice things around them that they might not have noticed before and look at things that are commonplace a little differently.
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Christina Cappelli described playwright Steven Dietz’s “The Nina Variations” as providing a couple with a reset button, the ability to repeat conversations and say something differently and see where things will end up this time.