Storyteller for the Blue Collar
JUXT Rewind: Originally published on January 24, 2012
Hey ya’ll. Well, it’s that time again. I got another one for you all. A doozy. This cat has got some amazing stuff and what caught my eye in particular was the beginning of his “Trucker Series.” I’m a part of the Advanced Mobile Photography Team (AMPt) and I help on the Feature 500 Pillar where we choose mobile photographers on IG who are dope but don’t necessarily have the followership that they deserve. So, we try to help in getting exposure for the amazing work they do. Well we were tasked to find a mobile artist who had amazing portraiture. David has amazing portraiture. Although a few of his first shots in this series were DSLR (he explains in this article), his latter and his most work comes from his iPhone. I had the pleasure of speaking to this brother over the phone and we had a grand ole’ time choppin it up. Here’s the slimmed down version but rest assured we had some good discussion. David is a great guy to boot. Check him out on IG under @dnorphoto. Read through this and enjoy this man’s work!!!
B: BP D: David
B: So David why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
D: I’ve been doing photography since about high school and when I got out I dinked around for a couple of years. In 2001, I got an associate’s degree in photography then went to Philly to finish up my school. I joined a band then came back and that’s when I got a bit more serious about photography.
I’m just a working man slowly working my way into being a full time photographer. I’ve been married for almost 5 years, I got a dog and a cat, no kids yet. We like to travel. We’ve been out to the Caribbean. We also went out to the West, specifically Arizona. We love to travel. The West Series, I posted, I used my DSLR and it’s where I started my portraiture stuff out there, in Arizona. This Series and the Trucker Series I’m working on now is really influenced a lot by Richard Avedon’s “In The American West” Series. The work he did in that series was amazing. I believe it was from the late 70’s or early 80’s, but I first saw it in college. He’s definitely a great influence on me.
B: Well, tell me more about the Trucker Series. That’s definitely what caught my eye on your feed and topic is a dope idea.
D: Now I do weekend gigs like weddings, family stuff, model stuff and during the week I’m a dock worker. This obviously gives me access to all the truckers in the series. It’s the grittier side of life, it’s the life that no one gets to see. The truckers are real supportive and at first they are hesitant and then they get real excited and engaged. I first started with my Nikon d700 with a real big lens. It’s real intimidating walking up to someone with a big ass camera and lens. A lot of times it feels akward from my end, but it’s definitely not something the truckers are easily open to. I’ve found that I can use my iPhone much easier than my DSLR because it’s less evasive and plus I can show them in real time the work that I want to do with this series. I learned about the iPhone’s power through seeing what AMPt and Juxt has been doing with it. You guys are taking it to another level with the iPhones. It’s definitely made it easier for me to get to these truckers and rid of the hesitation. So really, I’ve found that this series has taken it to another level. I’m able to access more truckers and able to share I real time. That’s pretty powerful. Plus I get to show them exactly what “they” look like and they get excited.
B: What kind of story are you trying to tell?
D: Basically I’m just trying to tell everyone about the truckers, their lifestyle, and the stories of the various characters that I see. Really for me, it’s trying to get to their story, it’s a bit selfish in a way. I want the interaction with them as people. I’m not trying to go from truck to truck to truck just so I get a shot. The shots I’ve taken have happened for a reason. I feel that certain situations happen and when I see a face, I see my photo, or I see a reason for why I need to take their portrait. I’m trying to document the lifestyle and the individual again. I want to give them their image and give them respect. I make sure that how I do this is all done respectfully.
B: Can you tell us a couple stories about some of the dude’s and their portraits so far?
D: Actually this one is my favorite. So it was the start of my morning and I see this truck. I knocked on the door, and I see the cab window start to slide open. I think to myself, “OMG” this is going to be a perfect shot. I got my iPhone ready and out comes this head. It’s perfect. I remember thinking, “dude, please don’t move, I need this shot.” So 10-15 minutes roll by and later the guy comes out all dressed normal and he got excited when I was telling him what I was doing ad showed him my shot of him. Afterwards he asks me to take a posed shot of him and his girlfriend. I’m like sure, and I end up taking a family portrait. If you look at the picture or imagine it for a bit, these folks live in their trucks. They’ve lived in this truck probably for a year now. The moral of it is, that they are at first hesitant, and when they find out that I’m doing this to show their lifestyle, they are all gung ho about it.
There was another guy who I photographed awhile back and he had a whole wad of tobacco in his mouth. I didn’t know if there was something wrong with him or if he had tobacco. I didn’t want to ask initially and I was thinking that he wouldn’t want this shot to be seen, then I showed him. So imagine these guys go up and down the coast, they are mainly from the South. Heavy accents, they talk your ear off. Sometimes I just don’t listen but I listen. Like they’ll say things about politics or about our president, and I may not necessarily agree with them, but I’ll listen. Sometimes I’m the only person they get to talk to in how many days or weeks. So I give them the opportunity to release. They get to talk to a person, right!?!? So anyways, I’m thinking he’s not going to like this shot. Turns out, he LOVES the shot. I mean, he’s like, “that’s a great shot man, I mean man, what a great shot.” And there’s the another moral to the story, I want to give them that respect. They get to release whatever they got in them, and sometimes they have some heavy shit, but I give them that time and listen to them.
B: I’m telling you bro, this series is brilliant just because of what you just said. So, when or how did you even start thinking about this series?
D: My final project in college was at a port where I shot in a documentary style of the unloading ships. I owe that to my father, but really this style came back from these ports where I started to see it in a different way. I used to shoot just parties and stuff. I found that at the port and with this trucker series, I get to show the working class, show their life. I mean I’m shooting in Hipstamatic and uploading right away. I’m not doing anything to it as far as edits. It’s all about the characters. The people make the shots. It shows the real life.
B: What apps are you using to shoot and edit with?
D: I usually shoot in Hipstamatic. There are some things where Snapseed has been helping me with some edits. But really, its mostly done with Hipstamatic. Sometimes I use Noir. For example, the sepia tone stuff, I’ll shoot mostly through Hipstamatic, then bring it through Noir, tone it, contrast it a bit, then call it good. Also I like to shoot in black and white and then tone it through an Instagram filter. Then there’s other stuff, where I take a shot and I’m thinking with apps in mind, what kind of shot I’m going to take. For instance, the shot I had the AMPt feature for the community tag, I did that one with it. I knew the shot and used the app I needed to use to edit it. By the way, it means a lot to me to have that shot featured because it did have a story behind it.
B: Oh, how come? What’s the story?
D: Well I lost my grandmother awhile ago from my mothers side which is Jewish. In order to keep with the rituals, she had to buried 24 hours after she passed. So when I found out she passed, I was at work and without too much details I had to either fly out there (with a lot of family) and be down there for her burial or figure out how to get all of this family to the funeral. So, we all drove through the night. That photograph was taken after I got ready at the hotel. Outside of the hotel was this field, I asked my wife to walk into the field naturally because I saw this specific shot in my head. She did and so I got a picture of what I saw in my head. It was a shot that I did no edits. It meant a lot that AMPt chose it. It was the only shot I took that day. It means a lot also because my grandmother was the most artistic one in the family. The last time I saw my grandmother was at my photo exhibition last August (2011). She was so proud of me and was telling everyone how proud she was.
B: So other than Richard Avedon, who else has influenced your work?
D: I don’t have any exclusives. I try to do it real time and its about the interaction for me. My biggest influence is Henri Cartier-Bresson. Everything comes from him. Even though I don’t have similar shots, I’m trying to do exactly what he does, I shoot and try not to worry about edits or crops. I’m trying to go for real time, as real, as raw, as gritty as the characters and subjects in my shots.
B: So you’ve got a gallery coming up with this Trucker Series, what other galleries have you been in or have you been in any?
D: I’ve been in 2-3 galleries. My biggest show was in August, where my grandmother was at. It featured the shots I took while I was in Arizona. The ”West” Series and its images were shot with my Nikon. It was various scenes from travelling through the West, specifically Arizona. In Wilmington, Delaware, the city where I live, there is this First Friday Art Walk. This walk has this loop where it’s so big there are shuttles that help folks get around this loop to the various galleries and exhibits. There’s this “poppycock” tattoo shop, who is a part of the loop and these guys have live music, Pabst beer. It’s not the wine and cheese type event that is like the other shows in the loop. It was a packed house and I had a blast showing my photos there.
The other two galleries I did with a couple of other artists, and a few years ago, I had another show with a few buddies of mine. So this upcoming show, the Trucker Series, the guys who are putting on the show own a print lab that I go to. They also have a gallery out front. I told them about the idea of the series and I’ve been talking to them about my work in mobile photography. It only took an hour of talking about it, where they were like, “Let’s do this.” In an hour they were on board.
B: Word. That’s real nice. So how does this help the photography community and more importantly the mobile photography community since it’s primarily all done on the iPhone?
D: Well, it excites me for my community in my city, I mean, there are a lot of photographers around here. A lot of them may not think that mobile is viable. But I’m getting the respect for the mobile community by showing them that using my iPhone is also an artistic and creative way to produce dope shots. Don’t get me wrong, on the weekends I do my “business”. I shoot weddings and such. But during the week, I get to be more creative and artistic by using my iPhone. I mean with mobile photography, I was like, it’s a raw form of art. It’s very refreshing. The Nikon won’t let me connect like with the iPhone. When I walk through the woods for instance, I’ll bring both my Nikon and my iPhone. The iPhone helps me connect right then and there. It’s in real time. It’s like a renegade style. I used to shoot a lot of music and band shots. At the end of every shoot, I’d do a band shot with my iPhone. I’d then send that image or post it on Facebook. The last band I shot, when I was leaving, the band came up to me and was like, “Hey you forgot to use your iPhone.” It’s an great way to get things done, again, in real time. There’s more interactivity and connection. I like that a lot.
Juxt thanks you for your words and art, David.
Facebook: David Norbut Photography
Also check the #truckerseries on Instagram to see them all.