Images of Arizona


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Interviewer: When did you start teaching photography?

Dykinga: Oh, man. Well, actually, I started teaching back in Chicago, in that when I was workin' at the Tribune I was in management. They folded one newspaper, meaning they closed it. It was [the] Chicago American, I guess it was, the last official title. And it was an afternoon paper and they just decided to get rid of the staff.

So back when the paper was closing, I had the dubious title of becoming like a photo coach, so I'd actually work with other professional photographers. I'd go on assignments and suggest ways they could improve what they're doing. So it was not only teaching, it was diplomacy, 'cause… you know, they're my peers. I'd won more awards and everything, but basically we were friends and peers, so you had to do that with a degree of diplomacy. Anytime you're a photo editor, you're basically teaching 'em.

Interviewer: Do we get this photo editor of the [Arizona Daily] Star in?

Dykinga: No, I didn't.

Interviewer: We hadn't heard about that year.

Dykinga: In 1976, I came to Tucson to become the photo editor of the Star and to kind of help the Star, to bring it up more in line with what was going on in other states around the country — sort of updating it a little bit.

That's when I took my leave of absence — I mentioned that earlier — and I came to Tucson. And there was a new executive editor in Tucson, so I went down to interview with him. Actually, I talked to the people at the U of A Journalism Department and they said, "There's a new guy in town. You might want to talk to him." So he was kind of impressed with my portfolio and my resume. And so I moved to Tucson, to make a long story short, and for five years I was the photo editor of the Star.

Interviewer: You were talking about how that's a teaching position.

Dykinga: It is, yeah,'cause you're merging — I don't want to say "big city attitudes," but in a sense it is. I mean, there's a degree of sophistication, especially from Chicago. Chicago was a really — it's one of those power points as far as journalism goes, and a lot of major journalists came out of the Chicago marketplace. It's still alive there. You know, Bob Greene, Mike Royko, Lois Willie — you can go on and on, but there's a whole lot of ... Studs Turkel. Anyway, so what I was doing is kind of helping Tucson photographers — see things a different way, and working with them that way. So after doing that for five years — in fact, while I was doing that, I think I also taught a course at Pima College, just as a basic entry-level photography course. And then I taught a photo journalism course at the U of A for a summer session. That really is pretty much it for my formal teaching.

Then I started doing a couple of workshops. It's a mixed bag, because sometimes the people aren't as motivated as you'd like 'em to be. But in every class there's always one or two that have that glimmer in their eye, and you know you're really gonna hafta spend some time with that particular person, because they're gonna really do something with their career.

This trip, I mean, was pretty amazing in that almost everybody — even the people shooting with the smaller cameras, and just very early in their career, as far as photography goes — really exhibited just a terrific love of the place, first off, which is the most important. And then they're able to reflect that, I think, in their photography. I mean, when I got the call from Jack [Arnow], I mean, he was like a kid. Here he is, what, seventy-six years old or so, and then he's just ecstatic about his images. That's exciting stuff. So that's why you do teaching. It's like Christmas. You open up the yellow box, or formerly yellow box — now it's a green box — and it's Christmas all over.

Interviewer: So when you teach, what do you try to do, how do you go about that?

Dykinga: I'm a great believer — maybe it's because of the way I learn things, is by doing it. You get people in a great setting like the Grand Canyon, and you can't go too far wrong. But basically, what I try to teach first off is the ability to see and to notice, and not to go racing by everything. So first off, you're slowing people down and allowing 'em to see. And they probably saw it before, but they probably never really took it all in. It's just like what boatmen do on the river: after a while they get to see people kind of shaking the city knots out of themselves, because they can actually finally slow down and relax. And so on the one hand you're seeing people relaxing, becoming alive, and used to sleeping on the ground. That's why photography goes hand-in-hand, because you're able to slow down and sleep on the ground and relax and discard your wristwatch, you're able to start noticing things, slower, and really anticipating the good light, and getting up and not complaining about it.

So that's very invigorating for me, to watch people both grow in terms of their love of the environment, and grow in their love of the images they're seeing before them.

continued: photography >>


behind the scenes / in the footsteps of barry goldwater / the experience
photography / plan your adventure / interview / biography

jack dykinga / leroy dejolie / david muench


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