Over the past forty years I have developed an impressive client list that has included: The Ford Foundation; United Way Worldwide; NFL Partnerships; The Commonwealth Fund; UNICEF: Ethiopia - New York - Swaziland; World Food Program, Sénégal; Oxfam; Rockefeller Bros. Fund; The Carnegie Corporation; The World Economic Forum, Addis Ababa; Towers Perrin; Young and Rubicam; McCann Erikson; European PressPhoto Agency; The New York Times; and a host of magazines and record labels.
This question actually applies to chess theory and was written by Jonathan Rowson in "Chess for Zebras." (I'm an avid player with an expert rating.) It basically asks whether or not we retain the necessary information to succeed in a changing economy. Are we losing vital skills as we walk up and down the hill of life? Freelance photography is quite similar but there are more tools involved. In our business we must stay competitive and current. Film replaced the daguerreotype and digital has replaced film. No one today drives horse and buggy carriages on the FDR. We don't send letters by carrier pidgeon - but it would be kind of cool. I make sure I have the software and the best cameras and lenses
to deliver any job I accept.
Professionalism means never having to apologize for not knowing your craft. I have four decades of experience in photography, lighting, photo editing (the full Adobe Design Suite), video editing (Final Cut Pro and Avid) and now - HTML5, CSS3, React, Next, GraphQL, and Bootstrap 5 web design. Why would you go anywhere else?
I learned photography the old-fashioned way - with a piece of black fabric over my head as I focused a 4x5" view camera upside down. My hands smelled of sodium sulphite as I developed B/W prints and negatives in my kitchen at midnight. I can't what kind of photographer I would be today without that in-depth training.
Digital photography does not make anyone a better photographer just as Microsoft Word doesn't make anyone a better writer. It merely speeded up the editing process. And there is a downside to that - a lack of editing acumen. If you've ever heard anyone say we can fix it in photoshop, it means they couldn't get it right during the shoot.
In 2001 my first book, "Brooklyn Kings" was published. Since then, I have learned to design and composite my own independent projects. It is still a relaxing pleasure in 2022 to sit down with a good book. Story-telling is a time-honored process. And I think I'm pretty good at it.
I once photographed a panel for the Ford Foundation where celebrity filmmakers and authors were discussing modern trends and technology. I was only a few feet away from Spike Lee when he was asked what he thought of cinema today? To paraphrase, he commented that while the expenses of making feature films have fallen dramatically since his time at NYU Film School, there was still no substitute for a good story told well.
The web is a fantastic forum for sharing content and information. But we must nver forget that all that glitters in not gold. All too often, people confuse opinion with fact. It's extremely dangerous. I sat on a panel here in Dakar with some young photographers once. I was giving them an honest, no-shit assessment of their work as I had done for years with my Art School students. Obviously, by their reactions, they wanted appluase. They kept resisting my critique as "my opinion." And I kept telling them that this "opinion" had the weight of forty years of experience.
Having created my own website since 2002, I have the facility to create a quick Bootstrap site that allow me to quickly upload images from recent shoots to my host server. I then share a link with the clients who then forward the link to their colleaugues and co-workers. So even before all the files have been downloaded and edited, the Art Directors can get a sense of how the job went.
As the author of "Brooklyn Kings: New York City's Black Bikers", "The Kingdom of Original Man: Addis Ababa", "Dakar Noir", "Small World", "The MAAFA Suite", and most recently, "I'm okay, You, I'm Not So Sure About", I am pleased to present my new website. Okay, you got me, the last book hasn't yet been written but I might do it. I could. In all seriousness my name is Martin Dixon, a native New Yorker, a graduate of The Cooper Union and The University of
MFA program, and at
your service. Since 1986 I have
made a career of delivering high quality, impactful images that move people to action. Photography is an
and I believe in the power
of pictures. It was the images of Life Magazine photographers in the late 1960's that made the world aware of
loss of life in the Vietnam
conflict. Images of courage mobilized youths from Tunisia to Ethiopia, standing up to oppression.
must speak to us
or they just become mere depictions. And I'm sorry, that is not enough. Because when your brand
is on the line, and the file
make it to press, edited and print/web
ready, you need a professional. And I'll put your mind to rest. As I tell my assistants all the time, it's not what
when everything is going well,
it's what you do when things go wrong. If you want sunshine, prepare for rain.
I am an extremely confident person. Occasionally I will rub some people the wrong way. My apologies. I tried humility once, but it didn't take. We professional photographers have a lot on our plates, juggling clients, assistants, studios, models, corporate ettiquette, deliveries, and invoices. My biggest asset is giving my valued clients more than they anticipated.
I am an excellent photographer. But we also live in a complicated world with shifting priorities. Art and photography is not always a priori. I have to make relationships with people who value what I produce. I won't get every assignment if a low budget is valued over content. I have forty-two years under my belt, multiple books, and have exhibited in numerous galleries. I've worked and travelled in thirty-two countries. When my children look at their dad they see a principled man who keeps his word. I teach them everyday that you don't get what you want in life - you get what you negotiate. And "Good Enough", well for me and my clients, it just isn't.
Process is really another way of describing good habits. Whenever I begin a location shoot, I start by scouting the scene first. Only after I like the space do I even think of bringing in the subjects. Negative space is very important to me. I don't like unwanted elements coming out of people's heads. Every good image has its own natural balance and harmony.
I'm an expert: so tell me what you need and I'll get to work. When I am in the zone as they say, I am always comparing what I see with images I have already made from years ago. I hate duplicating myself with past successes. It's lazy. Be original. I don't want to be a one trick pony or a singer with just one hit.
My goals are very simple. I want to be the standard that agencies use for establishing the level of professionism. I want to tell visual stories. I want to make a diference. I have had the temerity to ask Presidents and CEOs of huge foundations to dance a bit during a photo shoot to loosen things up a bit. All gray suits and wood paneled walls don't have to look alike. You're rich. You can do anything.
Stop playing on stereotypes. See everyone as a unique individual. Don't apply a cookie-cutter layout to all projects. Find what is unique about every country, city, person, street, and tree. Demand more. I ask everyone I meet, would you allow an amateur to ruin your brand identity? Would you add Sprite to 12 year old Cognac? At the end of the day, the images I make will far outlive the money I received creating the work. And poor images, just like malicious rumors, take so long to forget.
The extended photo essay is probably the hardest body of work to produce - you never know when you're finsihed. It would be very easy to just sit back and ride out into the sunset. But there is so much more I want to do and see.
I spent two years in Ethiopia one night. Things got so bad I was sending encrypted files back home via Fed-Ex. It turns out that everything I had photographed and shared was literally illegal according to the government. Local journalists we being rounded up and sent to prison to be re-educated.
This is my second rodeo, we were here in 2005. Time and distance offer us a unique perspective. As Dakar grows and expands, the streets become smaller and smaller. The traffic longer and later. History will show that Sénégal was ahead of the curve. But violent neighbors lower the curve.
After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, my parents decided I should learn photography. They scraped together enough money to buy me my first camera, a Leica M9 with a 35mm Summicron f2.0 lens. "Our history", they said, 'must be archived."
I am always happy to meet with clients in person at their office or at a location of their choosing. If you you in the Dakar metro area, I'm a short drive away. If you happen to be abroad... well, let's just say my passport still has a few pages left.
Dakar Mobile: +221 77 3902 480