Every story is a mirror, giving those that pay attention the opportunity to reflect on themselves, on their society, on life and if we are inquisitive and if our goal in life is to raise the living standards of all people then we would do well to listen to the artists.
One artist with an interesting story is Dave Niddrie. An Alberta native that moved to Vancouver to see what life could throw at him, he has taken an active role in his community and has supported and worked with Adbusters, CBC Radio 3 and is currently work with Birocreative, he is also an accomplished photographer.
What can David tell us about life and each other? Lets find out.
You have worked with Adbusters, CBCradio3 and your currently doing some work with Birocreative, what is it about these organizations that attracts you to them? What do u find most personally rewarding about working with them?
I have always been interested in the alternative – be it music, movies, media, etc. Since high school I have been listening, somewhat obsessively, to local bands, supporting small labels, buying zines and locally made clothes and food. It has become a philosophy for me in some ways. These organizations all fall into that ‘alternative’ category. Adbusters took a recognizable medium – the magazine – and turned it on it’s head in the quest to create new meaning in our culture. CBCr3 was a radically different take on what a website can be and it was created and put together by a wide slice of creative talent in the Canadian ‘underground’. And Birocreative is a fairly new organization that I have had the pleasure of working with already on their mission to create meaningful, impactful campaigns for socially-minded progressive organizations. For me, anything that is challenging the status quo and creating an alternate reality that can become a new model is worth checking out. It’s rewarding to know that whatever contribution, be it big or little, goes a ways to this end.
How did you ended up working for Adbusters and what were you involved in with them?
I was originally drawn to Adbusters through my instructor in an advertising course I took in Journalism school back in Calgary in 1998. Before that, I hadn’t really taken a careful look at how media shapes opinion, taste, pop culture and politics. To me at that time, the question of ethics in media wasn’t on my radar, and when I started diving into magazines like Adbusters, Colors, New Internationalist, Mother Jones, etc. I was a bit taken aback at how out of control many of us are at any time with relation to what is being fed to us through the media. It really made me question a lot of things and by the time I finished school, practicums and moved here, I knew Adbusters was where I wanted to be.
I went in and started volunteering which quickly led to becoming the volunteer coordinator, managing the reprints and permissions, working in the campaigns department, then to fundraising and finally to where I wanted to be – staff photographer. Adbusters is a unique magazine in that it is totally reader-supported – no ads – and, with the freedom that entails, the creative directors are able to create a cohesive whole, a narrative free from the interruptions of unrelated material and it just opens up a lot of room for texture, lucid expression and stream-of-consciousness-type flow. A lot of my work was to create imagery to assist with the flow and guiding the reader through the ideas presented.
Your work with companies and organizations that many people would call “progressive”, do you think thats a fair term?
I think it is fair – it’s an alternate way of doing things. To me, a progressive organization is one moving forward, changing the rules, creating new thought and evolving the human race. Many “classic” organizations are too embedded with corporate interests, have too many angles to attend to and conflicts that prevent them from getting anything done aside from maintenance of the status quo. It seems to be a struggle for progressive groups to deal with as many seem to get stuck on the outside looking in and trying to affect change from there when they are constantly being stonewalled and kept beyond the walls of policy change. Luckily, these days there are more ways to get things done outside a system and ‘progressive’ groups are taking it upon themselves to create the world they envision, beauracrats (sp?) and politicians be damned. It seems to be the only way sometimes, and frankly, the less we need to bother ourselves with outdated modes of democracy and policy the better.
Don’t get me wrong, there is always a need to participate in the mechanisms we have in place, because until we are effectively able to change them completely from the outside, there has to be some change from within. As long as these methods retain a level of soundness we can all work with, that is! When those start breaking down, that’s when you see the new models slip in from the fringes and real change takes place.
What do you think a company needs to accomplish or stand for to be considered progressive? and have you found the meaning of the term change over time?
You’re active online with social image sharing communities, What is it about sharing a photograph with strangers that makes it so enjoyable?
I have been taking photos for a few decades now, starting from when I was a boy in Calgary with my Kodak-110 in the 80s. Back then I would always put my pictures in an album and have them out for everyone to look at and have fun with. I suppose it has just been an evolution from there. When my photography got more “serious” I got a huge thrill when I published my first pic in the campus newspaper. It didn’t take me long to see the connection between a reader and a story was often made with the first thing they see – the picture. When flickr.com started up here in Vancouver a few years ago I signed up and found the community side of things to be not only a great resource for finding inspiration in my own work, but just sharing more pictures with more people and hearing comments, criticism, ideas and making connections to be an ideal platform for working with people around the world who are now shaping the future of media, communication and ‘the global village’.
What can the world learn from photographers?
A lot. Simply take a look at the World Press Photos website for the last dozen years or so and you’ll see. http://www.worldpressphoto.org/
Images have been key to defining movements and creating social change since photographers started using film to document their fellow citizens years ago. Think of the image of the young Kim Phuc running from a napalm attack in Vietnam in 1972 or the lone Chinese man blocking a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. These are famous examples, but these images were able to change pubic perception and in some cases affect real change on a governmental level. I think the best photos are a reflection of this human condition and if they speak, they will show you a part of yourself that was either hidden, buried or ignored.
On a similar note, a film called “Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America” is a very inspiring story of a young mountaineer and videographer whose images and eventual role as Executive Director of the Sierra Club created huge waves in the fight to protect wild spaces in North America. Anyone interested in seeing the power of imagery when attached directly to a critical cause, in this case environmental, should see this film and learn about David Brower’s life.
Who are some artists that drive you to be better at your craft?
On flickr there are a few new discoveries:
Kozan: http://flickr.com/photos/kozan/ takes fantastic black and white images, some very simple, and infects them with lots of emotion
Antimethod: http://flickr.com/photos/antimethod/ takes surrealist imagery that makes you think
My God, it’s full of stars!: http://flickr.com/photos/christianfossati/ takes unbelievable candid shots of people and places in his neighbourhood…
Nadav Kandar: http://www.nadavkander.com/ works on very interesting projects, I particularly like his Chernobyl series.
Edward Burtynsky’s work became familiar to me while at Adbusters and the latest documentary about him and his work is a fascinating study.
And SebastiÃ£o Salgado will always stand as one of the best photographers I’ve seen. Images with a purpose and with a lot of heart and soul.
There are lots of others of course, I’m always absorbing imagery and inspiration from other photographers & visual artists either online or in print, galleries, etc. But another passion of mine is music and I often find a creative surge through song – not a minute will go by where I am not humming, drumming or listening to a record or CD.
If there was one person, alive or dead, that you would love to have view your photographs, who would that person be?
I would have to say my late grandfather, Andy Walter, or Oti. He was an obsessive picture-taker, videographer (of the home movie variety) and world traveller. I know the fact he always had a camera on his shoulder and would compose a shot or arrange for the perfect walk-through on video with great focus and attention was a huge inspiration for me. He would help me out with pictures and we’d often go over photo albums of the family or his journeys in Europe, etc. It was only after his passing that I got seriously into photography as a career and started to really work on technique and story-telling. It would be great to have his opinion on some of my photos, especially my recent images from South America. His world-view would have made an interesting dialogue.
Ansel Adams has said: “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” Who do you take pictures for?
That’s a tough one! I always take pictures for myself first. I am the one triggering that shutter and I feel like I had better be impressing myself with this picture, before I need to impress anyone else. If I am working for a client, obviously their needs are foremost on my mind. But it still comes down to the fact that the picture I produce for them better be tops in my book, or I just wouldn’t leave the job excited or proud of what I accomplished. There are way more times when I am simply shooting some pictures that I will not show. Working for a newspaper or magazine, I am often given very specific guidelines for what to shoot and how to present it. If the final output is to tell a story in one frame, then yes, by god I had better think of the viewer. However, who better to view than yourself – the one who is there without any filters on, so that’s what angle I am always approaching from.
How have organizations you have worked for changed you and how have you seen them change other people?
I think any organization I end up working for will change me simply by allowing me to do something I haven’t done before. New experiences abound as a freelance photographer. “Progressive” organizations give me new ideas and alternate methods for dealing with things I may take for granted or haven’t much thought about. Being with Adbusters for five years really changed my outlook on life as far as media, government and corporate influence are concerned. Luckily, I am not totally cynical because of it, but my critical thinking and philosophies – both personal and professional – have evolved to be in line with where I am at in my life at the moment. And it feels pretty good. I think there is a great tide of change out there and it is coming, sweeping through the world and it starts from the roots level, and as we are seeing now with the ‘green’ movement and the climate change issue, people are taking action, taking back control of their own lives and we as a human race will move forward solely on this wave.
Davids website is: