Dan Williams is an outstanding photographer. I have been a fan of since his days of shooting on film.
Whether he is chasing light, or capturing life, his work carries an impeccable sense of timing, striking a moment at the point of perfection, like a jazz drummer.
Together with his wife Cicely Voigtlander Williams they run Rusted Van Photography out of Northbend, Washington.
In our conversation Dan expounds on capturing the moment, it’s place in history and why your camera is the best camera.
Dan was kind enough to participate in the following interview:
How long have you been a photographer? I got my first camera for my 19th birthday. I didn’t really use it too much at first, just a bit here or there. I really became interested in photography as art around the age of 22 or 23.
What kind of gear do you use? Professionally I recently switched from Olympus cameras to a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The versatility of the full frame is a real plus. With my Olympus cameras I enjoy paring them with old Nikkor lenses. I also enjoy shooting with film. I have a variety of 35mm cameras, including a Canon T50, Nikon N80 and a Voigtlander Vitessa.
How did you discover photography? When I was a kid we always had cameras around. I don’t think either of my parents ever attempted to take an artistic shot, but they did do a good job documenting the random moments that make up childhood. So, when I got my first camera I looked at it as a way to document a moment.
How would you describe your style? I would describe my style as documentary. I bring that sort of capture the moment mentality to everything I shoot whether it is a family of four or elk in a field. When shooting professionally, I try to add elements of street and landscape photography to my documentary style.
What does photography mean to you? Photography to me, is a connection to history, when you open the shutter you are documenting an exact moment in time. My photos are a collection random moments and something I will leave for my kids and hopefully their kids. I can imagine them looking at the photos and thinking how old fashioned we were in the late 20th and early 21st century.
What makes you reach for your camera? There are two reasons I reach for my camera, one is to document a moment or a scene and the other is capture the light. Of the two, light is stronger pull in my day to day life. I don’t think it was always like that, when I was younger I saw scenes as if I was looking through a lens. Over time that changed. Now as an old man, I see light and the scene isn’t particularly important.
Is there any subject matter that you off limits to you? If so, why? Flash photography in bars. Flash photography is annoying and bars are for drinking in.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos? I wished I had know that my Grandmother was a photographer. I think I missed out on some wonderful conversations. At least I have her photos.
What is one question nobody has ever asked you—that you wish they asked you? Nobody has ever asked if my cat could eat a whole watermelon.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Specifically to photography — Your camera (whatever that camera might be) is the best camera in world at the moment you need it. Life in general — The effort which is sufficient will equal enough victory.